Derrick Brooks has never resorted to words to defend himself against critics. Instead, Tampa Bay's veteran linebacker always has let his play on the field do the talking.
Brooks' performance Sunday against the visiting Green Bay Packers spoke volumes.
Brooks was all over the field and had his hand in two of the defense's biggest plays in Tampa Bay's 30-21 victory against the Packers at Raymond James Stadium. Along the way, Brooks showed no ill effects of the hamstring strain he has battled since the season opener, but did, however, showcase the big-play ability he's displayed virtually his entire career.
"I know it's still in me," said Brooks, 35, in his 14th season. "I've still got a lot of football in me, contrary to some's beliefs."
Brooks' teammates agree wholeheartedly.
"The guy has still got it. He's still the man," Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. "Derrick came out and stepped up today. That's just the way Derrick Brooks is. That's why he's a Hall of Famer."
It didn't take long for Brooks to make an impact. On the first play of the second quarter, Brooks provided the first of four turnovers for the Tampa Bay defense when he intercepted quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the Packers' 31-yard-line. It was the 25th interception of Brooks' career and the first career interception thrown by Rodgers, snapping his string of 157 consecutive attempts without a pick.
More importantly, the turnover led to Tampa Bay's first score, as Bucs quarterback Brian Griese capped the ensuing drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alex Smith, tying the score at 7.
Then, with the Bucs nursing a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter, Brooks again came through with a big play, forcing a fumble with a hit on Packers running back Ryan Grant. The ball was scooped up by safety Jermaine Phillips and returned 38 yards for a touchdown. The score was the third in four games for the Bucs' defense, the most since the 2002 season when Tampa Bay's defense scored touchdowns in four of its first five games.
Overall, Brooks finished with three tackles, two for a loss, two passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble. And he had his hands on two other potential interceptions.
"What can I say? He's an old guy, but the old guys are leading the way," said Bucs defensive end Kevin Carter, in his 14th season. "I'm very impressed with the way he's been playing. He's heads up. ... He's a very opportunistic, smart player, and he always has been. You're talking about one of the best in the business. He's one of the best, in my opinion, to ever play the game."
The tape of Sunday's game should echo those sentiments.
"Sunday was a time I had an opportunity to put something on tape to change some critics' minds," Brooks said. "And hopefully I did."