Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Ahmad Brooks: 'This is where I should be'
By Mike Sando
Certain former San Francisco 49ers coaches thought Ahmad Brooks the linebacker could not learn their defense.
"A few coaches said that and told me that personally," Brooks said Tuesday. "That has always been a lie."
Brooks would not name the coaches Tuesday, and the story was not about them, anyway. The story was about the 49ers' new staff liking Brooks enough to sign him through 2017.
"I feel like this is where I should be," Brooks said. "These are the people that gave me a chance to go out there and get this contract."
Brooks had been a situational pass-rusher under the previous staff. He grew into that role and performed it well, but it was not clear whether Brooks would remain effective if asked to become an every-down player. The current staff, led by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, was obviously happy with the results after Brooks collected seven sacks in 16 starts.
"I just feel comfortable playing in this system," Brooks said. "(Fangio) doesn't ask for a lot. It is just easy to me."
That is a sign of good coaching. To suggest that Brooks hasn't changed would be unfair to his previous coaches, however. If Brooks is like most people, he's more mature now, at age 27, than he was in his early 20s. Still, there is some risk in handing millions to a player with Brooks' history. He was kicked off the team at Virginia after two failed drug tests, entered the supplemental draft and lasted only two seasons with Cincinnati.
The Bengals released Brooks in 2008.
"I felt like a girl broke up with me and broke my heart," he said. "It can also be a blessing in disguise. I didn't see it at the time. It paid off. I continued to work, came in here and worked hard."
The 49ers claimed Brooks off waivers, released him when they needed room on the roster for a receiver, then brought him back. Brooks made an immediate impact as a situational pass-rusher, tackling Minnesota's Percy Harvin for an 8-yard loss in Brooks' first game with the 49ers. He had a three-sack game against Arizona on "Monday Night Football" later in that 2009 season. He became a full-time starter for the first time last season.
Playing with some of the most talented defensive players in the NFL has helped, of course. Brooks took note of that.
"When you are (with) guys like Ray McDonald, I can roam around," Brooks said. "I can mess up, but Ray can make me look good, like I didn't mess up. That lets me do things I could not do if with another team."
Brooks' deal, announced by the team, firms up the left side of the 49ers' defense. It comes about seven months after the 49ers signed McDonald to a five-year deal that signaled McDonald's ascension into the starting lineup at left defensive end.
Brooks and McDonald will be playing together for some time, it appears.
"Me and Ray communicate on every play, especially when it is third down," Brooks said.