OLB Ahmad Brooks started last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. He didn’t finish it.
No physical injury kept Brooks out of the game. Rather, the All-Pro’s pride that took a hit as he watched the game from the sideline before unleashing a verbal tirade on San Francisco 49ers coaching staff which pulled him from the game in the second quarter.
For the second straight week, the 49ers were in danger of an aggrieved player voicing frustration to the media. However, when Brooks met with members of the media inside Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday, the only finger he pointed was towards himself:
“It was an emotional reaction during the game and I reacted out of my character. I did not quit on the team, I did not take myself out of the game. But words that were said by me, obviously couldn’t be taken back, so they decided to just not put me back in the game.”
Brooks’ malcontent stemmed from his absence from the field, as the rise of rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch and return of Aldon Smith forced the linebacker into an unfamiliar rotating role during Sunday’s contest.
A Fox Sports report claimed that Brooks was unwilling to rotate, which prompted the outburst that benched him for the game.
After initially claiming both he and Brooks were working through the issue following Sunday’s game, it appears an understanding has been reached, as head coach Jim Harbaugh voiced both support and admiration for Brooks during Wednesday press conference:
“We’ve addressed it. It’s not insubordination. Let’s just clear that one up. … I trust Ahmad Brooks, believe in Ahmad Brooks. Know he’s going to make a vital contribution to our team as he always has. And the cold, hard facts are that the last 58 games, he’s started the last 58 games. Nobody has answered the bell more than Ahmad Brooks has for this football team.”
While Harbaugh remains a powerful ally for Brooks to have on his side, how much playing time the All-Pro sees during Sunday’s contest against Washington will be left to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and his staff, Harbaugh said.
This could spell problems for Brooks, as defensive line coach Jim Tomsula apparently caught the brunt of Brooks’ ire on Sunday. However, Tomsula was the only name that Brooks personally mentioned on Wednesday while issuing his public apology:
“I felt bad and I didn’t like that feeling, so I decided to apologize to Jimmy Tomsula, because that’s who I said those words to. I apologized to him, he accepted my apology and we are moving forward.”
Despite leading the team with four sacks on the year, Brooks has rarely looked like the dangerous player who earned All-Pro honors over his last two season.
Meanwhile, rookie Lynch has proven to be a legitimate NFL talent who can cause disruptions in the passing game while harassing opposing quarterbacks. Lynch is currently tied for second on the team with three sacks after gaining yet another during last Sunday’s contest.
It appears Brooks is ready to accept a role in a potential three-headed attack at the outside linebacker position, though he was noncommittal in whether he would be able to retain his starting status:
“Am I expecting to start? I’m expecting to play. We never discuss our schemes. We never discuss rotations with the 49ers. So whether or not I’m starting or not really doesn’t matter. As long as I’m out there playing, that’s what matters.”