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Brandon Brooks retires from NFL, but Eagles OL was known for much more than crushing blocks

USA TODAY
USA TODAY
 2022-01-26

In the end, the injuries became too much for Brandon Brooks.

Brooks didn't know exactly when that moment came, but the Philadelphia Eagles' right guard just knew it was time after 10 seasons, which he announced on Wednesday.

Brooks' announcement in a 40-minute news conference came after straight three Pro Bowl selections from 2017-19, but it also came after injuries limited the 32-year-old to just two games – both this season – over the last two seasons.

"I don’t want to say it was a moment of clarity," Brooks said. "It was just, at what point do you listen to your body? It’s one thing to have an injury or two, one or two big injuries. But I’m having injury after injury, so at what point to I listen?"

But Brooks' career was about so much more as he described in his opening statement, in which he thanked dozens of former teammates, coaches, and management both with the Houston Texans, where he began his career, and with the Eagles.

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https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3TeVnd_0dwUs5F000
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65) and offensive guard Brandon Brooks (79) work against Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles won 32-6. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik) Danny Karnik, AP

That included cafeteria workers, trainers and other "behind-the-scenes" people.

"How do you say goodbye to something you’ve known your whole life, something that taught you triumph, pain, success, failure, perseverance, love, empathy and altruism?" Brooks said. "I don’t know, but I’ll try my best."

It was reported Wednesday that the Eagles reworked Brooks' contract for 2022, going from a salary cap hit of $19.7 million to $7.1 million, saving $12 million.

By not officially announcing the retirement until after June 1, the Eagles can spread that $12 million savings over two seasons.

Brooks was known as much for his crushing blocks, especially since he signed with the Eagles as a free agent in 2016 after spending the first four seasons of his career with Houston, as he was for tackling mental health.

It was Brooks, who late in the 2016 season, publicly acknowledged his illness after he missed two straight games. The morning of those games, anxiety caused pregame vomiting that left him so dehydrated that he had to be taken to the hospital.

Brooks left another game in the first quarter in a November 2019 game, again from anxiety, this time from the pressure of living up to a four-year contract he had signed the week before worth $56.4 million.

"I liken it to your hardest situation … that you go through in life," Brooks said about the pressure to perform. "You’re in a fishbowl, so you got thousands and millions of people watching. As highly-paid athletes, we’re expected to be modern-day gladiators and not have any feelings.

"At the end of the day, we are human beings and we go through things just like other people do. For us, a lot of our stumbles, a lot of our falls, a lot of our ills are public."

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=45eQYb_0dwUs5F000
Nov 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks (79) and center Jason Kelce (62) against the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks, of course, was always a confidant with Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who missed three games in October when he, too, went through anxiety and depression. Brooks called Johnson "my brother from Day 1."

Brooks said he went to Johnson's house when Johnson returned from his Oklahoma home while on leave.

"I really didn’t have to say anything at first," Brooks said. "We just sat there, man. Sometimes, words aren’t necessarily needed. We sat there ..."

At this point, Brooks paused for about 15 seconds, choking back tears, before continuing.

"(We) really just reflected on life. The ups and downs. The struggles, the things we go through. It wasn’t even a football conversation at that point. Just like he had my back through the ups and downs, I wanted to have his when he had his struggles. That made our bond a lot closer, a lot stronger."

In October, Johnson acknowledged that he and Brooks had been suffering together for years.

"A lot of stuff, when he was going through it, I understand," Johnson said in October. "He was talking about how he puked every game day. I was right there with him at 5:30 (in the morning). He was probably the main guy that helped me with this situation."

On the field, Brooks had few peers as a right guard.

He and Johnson on the right side of the offensive line, with Jason Kelce at center and Jason Peters at left tackle, solidified a line that was often considered among the best in the NFL.

That line was the impetus for the Eagles' Super Bowl run in 2017. And Brooks, who was only in his second season with the Eagles then, soon realized how much that championship meant to the region's fans.

"You hear that a lot, but to see people dump their grandmother’s or grandfather’s ashes out," Brooks said. "A guy came up to me the other day, his mom’s mom had passed, and for 3 hours on (Super Bowl) Sunday, he said it was like nothing else mattered.

"We gave (his mother) that much joy watching it. It’s things like that. Those memories I’ll always have."

But injuries began to take their toll.

Brooks tore his Achilles in the Eagles' playoff loss to the Saints in Jan. 2019, but made it back in time for the start of the 2019 season. Brooks played in every game and was named to his third straight Pro Bowl.

But in the regular-season finale that season against the Giants, Brooks separated his shoulder and needed surgery. Brooks was well on his way to making it back in June of 2020, when he tore his Achilles again while running by himself at the NovaCare Complex.

Brooks missed the entire season. Last spring, however, Brooks said when he suffered that injury, he laughed.

"People were like, ‘Why are you laughing? You just tore your Achilles,’" he said then. "I’m like, ‘It’s life. It happens.’ I’ve seen the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. … I’ve been down this road. I know what to expect."

Brooks recovered from that, too, returning for training camp last summer. He started the first two games before suffering a pectoral muscle injury.

The injury was expected to take 7-8 weeks to heal, meaning that Brooks could have returned this season. But it became apparent as the regular-season wound down, that wasn't going to happen. He might have made up his mind at that point.

"Can I still play? The answer is yes," Brooks said. "But the answer is also, at this point, can I hold up? After all these injuries, I just realized that at what point do you listen to your body? I think my body was just telling me that I had to make a decision. At this point in time, it’s the right decision."

So Brooks said he will move on to a future in business and finance. Brooks had  internships in the past during the offseason and plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania's business school.

But Brooks said he considers Philadelphia his home and will continue to be active in the community.

"I can tell you what I’m going to miss the most, going out there and playing at the Linc on Sundays," he said. "And number two, the locker room. It’s a unique set of guys and personalities. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your circumstances are, what your race is.

"At the end of the day, it’s whether you can play football or not."

Brooks could, like few others.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Brandon Brooks retires from NFL, but Eagles OL was known for much more than crushing blocks

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