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Brooking: Cowboys ILB position 'suits my game better than any I have played'

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Posted Oct. 01, 2009 @ 4:23 p.m.
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

Keith Brooking doesn't appear too disoriented for a guy who never before has called anywhere but Georgia home until now. From high school to college at Georgia Tech to his first 11 years with the Falcons, Brooking was a Peach. Now he's one of the plum elements of a Cowboys defense that looked vastly better on Monday night than it did in Week One or Two.

And Brooking, outfitted with a different role in Dallas than he ever has played before, looks spry, active and effective as a run and pass defender in Wade Phillips' defense. He's coming off a game in which Phillips called him "outstanding," and there was something in Brooking's game we hadn't often seen before: blitzing.

“I’ve never really been in a position to blitz (before now), for whatever reason," Brooking said by phone about an hour ago. "But I feel I have the ability to do that. I think Wade has the confidence in both (fellow ILB Bradie James and me) to do that, so we’re mixing that up."

In this 3-4 defense, Brooking says it's similar to what's called a 4-3 "under" scheme where DE Igor Olshansky is lined up over the offensive guard, covering Brooking up, and OLB DeMarcus Ware — who is often in a three-point stance — is on Brooking's right, taking the attention of the offensive tackle. That leaves Brooking free to fill gaps and make plays, which is what he's best at.

"I can go out there and use my strengths," he said. "I am not a stuff-and-shed linebacker. The years that I was in the position (I am in now), they were my most productive years. I feel like I am right at home. …

"This position suits my game better than any other position I have played in my 11-year career."

Brooking says he makes sure to pay homage to the guys who allow him to do this.

"In this defense and the type of run defenders we have up front with Igor (Olshansky) and Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff, as disruptive as he is, and you’ve got DeMarcus Ware … After every game, I go to my D-line and I give them the glory. If it wasn’t for those guys … hey, they make it easy on me as far as being able to play downhill and be disruptive."

He also has emerged as a leader, reminding the frustrated players in the locker room all week after the Week Two loss to the Giants that this is a long season with 14 games to go. The defense responded with its best game to date, mostly dominating the Panthers.

Brooking plans to honor his current deal, which lasts three more seasons including this one, and then retire.

“I really didn’t plan on playing any longer than that,” he said. “But I feel that in three years here, with the things I have left to do in my career, I can accomplish everything that I want to accomplish and have no regrets.”

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