This news isn’t surprising, especially in the wake of his recent contract restructure, but it’s still bittersweet to hear Brandon Brooks has officially announced his NFL retirement.
The nine-year veteran worked tirelessly to come back from injuries three seasons in a row, but unfortunately ended up missing the entire 2020 season and was once again sidelined in 2021 early on in Week 2. Now, the three-time Pro Bowl guard will call it a career.
Brooks signed with the Eagles back in 2016 on a five-year, $40 million deal and was worth every penny. He played in 14 games his first year in Philly, and didn’t miss a regular season game in 2017, 2018, and 2019 — the three years he was also named to the Pro Bowl. The team signed him to a four-year contract extension worth $54.2 million in November 2019, a move at the time that seemed like a no-brainer and made Brooks the highest paid guard in the league.
The guard had his first taste of significant injury during the 2019 playoffs, when he tore his Achilles during the wild card round against the Saints. It’s a game that Lane Johnson would later argue that the Eagles were a right guard away from winning. Still, he worked his ass off and stayed true to his word, rehabbing and returning in time for Week 1 of the 2019 season.
Brooks went on to play in all 16 regular season games that year, but suffered a dislocated shoulder in Week 17 that eventually required surgery. As he worked his way back onto the field, the guard ended up tearing his other Achilles, and was ruled out of the 2020 NFL season in June of that year. There was early optimism that Brooks might not miss the entire season, but he did.
Once again, Brooks worked through his rehab and was back at training camp for the Eagles ahead of the 2021 season. There was no reason to think that he wasn’t going to be back next to Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, and he was... for a week and a half. But, in Week 2 he suffered a pectoral injury, went on IR, and that was that.
“You can’t replace those type of players. Younger guys gotta step up and we gotta press on. It’s terrible, I mean, Brooks is one of my best friends, best guard in the league for a long time, and was doing well so far this season, and having him not be out there was a tremendous loss for us. Having him out there might have been the difference between us winning and losing.”
Head coach Nick Sirianni eventually stopped including him in his weekly injury updates and throughout the year, Brooks return seemed less likely. During the end-of-season press conference with Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ GM said their priority was for Brooks to be fully healthy heading into the offseason — but he wouldn’t specifically address the rumors that had begun circulating about Brooks’ potential retirement.
Now we know that Brooks is officially hanging up his cleats after an incredibly impressive and successful pro football career.
Brandon Brooks opened his press conference with a six-minute letter to everyone who had an impact on his 10-year career, from his parents and family, to the Houston Texans organization, and the Philadelphia Eagles.
He thanked Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Doug Pederson for being there for him during his early days and during his struggles. He thanked current and former teammates for helping him develop as a player, and for being brothers in the locker room, and thanked Nick Sirianni for being a hell of a coach, a hell of a person, and helping the team build great roots.
Brooks also got emotional when talking about Jeff Stoutland and how he was such an integral part of his life on and off the field the past six years.
“Last but certainly not least, Jeffrey Stoutland. Where do I start? I feel like it’s rare to have a coach that is impactful on the field as off. You took me from being a good player, to being the best at my position. Even while I was there, you pushed me continuously to strive for more because hungry dogs run faster, and always will.
Just as you helped me on the field, you helped me off, through all my struggles and low moments. I could always count on a phone call from you, the topic never being about football, but just life and how you could help. You are more than a coach and have been for awhile. You are family and always will be. Anything, any time, anywhere, never hesitate to reach out.”
Brooks went on to thank people behind the scenes and throughout the Eagles organization, from the cafeteria staff to the weight room staff, and others.
“Lastly, to the city and the fans. I was extremely fortunate to help bring a Championship to the city, had multiple Pro Bowl appearances, but none greater than having the honor of being an Eagle and putting that Midnight Green on and playing in front of the greatest fans in the world.
The City of Brotherly Love is just that, love. Since Day 1, you’ve had my back and supported me through my ups and downs, by sending love and support through my personal struggles. Y’all will always be family to me and I couldn’t imagine finishing my career anywhere else. I hope that in return, I did my best to represent the city through my play and how I played.
Although I may no longer play, I’ll be an Eagle forever, will always bleed green, and if I could leave you with anything it would this: Defeat is never fatal, victory is never final, it’s the courage that counts.”
On when he came to the decision
Brooks said it was something he wrestled with since the 2020 offseason, and even though he’s a young guy, at 32, he’s one of the older guys NFL-wise and his body was telling him it was time. After suffering injury-after-injury he questioned at what point you listen to what your body is telling you, and move on.
He admitted he loved the journey of rehabbing and working his way back, and would always set goals to beat estimate returns, but that became harder to do. Brooks didn’t suffer any kind of setback in 2021, he just ran out of time to get a few practices in before returning for a game, and his body to longer to bounce back. He talked about how it also became a question of whether he was waiting for his knee to blow out or something even bigger before he stepped away from the game, and realized that this was the best opportunity.
The OG said he also looked around the Eagles’ OL room and what Jeff Stoutland has been able to do with the young guys like Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll, Isaac Seumalo, Landon Dickerson, and Nate Herbig, and knew that the position group was in great hands, and thought it was best to step aside.
As for what’s next, Brooks is going to apply to business school at Penn, and he emphasized that Philly is home for him and he’ll still be around. He talked about how some internships in the business world during the offseason inspired him and helped him find another passion. He also pointed to the 30-for-30 about going broke and how he didn’t want to be one of those athletes who squandered their money, so going back to learn about investments and how to protect his financial future, is important to him.
On his legacy and mental health advocacy
Brooks was asked a lot of different questions about his decision six years ago to expose his mental health and anxiety struggles, and how that’s shaped his legacy. He talked about how at the time, he had to take time away twice, and after the second time, grappled with whether or not to publicly explain his situation.
At the time, talking about mental health as an athlete wasn’t common-place, but Brooks explained that it’s something that he’s always dealt with and will always deal with, so it was important for him to be honest and transparent about the situation. He also knew that a lot of people suffer in silence, or are ashamed of their struggles, and he wanted to help others by sharing his story.
Brooks also talked about how his journey allowed him to better help and support Lane Johnson who missed a few games this season with his own mental health issues. When Johnson got back from Oklahoma, Brooks went over to his house and he really didn’t have to say anything at first. Sometimes words aren’t necessarily needed. Brooks started to get emotional recalling this moment with his friend. He explained that they just sat there and reflected on life, the ups and downs, and things you go through. It was important for Brooks to have Johnson’s back, just like Johnson did for Brooks years prior.
Brooks said the situation made their bond even stronger, and ultimately, just wanted to make sure Johnson was alright.
On the memories he’ll remember most
Brooks talked a bit about his first training camp in Houston and how he had a heavy weekend and came in Monday overweight. Coach Kubiak had just gotten done yelling at someone and then looked at him and said, “If you’re going to be overweight, you might as well pack your stuff right now.” It was in that moment that he realized how things would be different in the NFL.
The OG also recalled a day that he was at a fork in the road career-wise, and Arian Foster took him aside. Brooks asked Foster how you reach your goals in the NFL, and the RB said that he goes out there every day and picks one thing to work on, and does that everyday. Foster noted that he never got tired of the process, even after reaching an elite level, and that was the kind of mindset Brooks developed.
He also pointed out all the memories he made learning from Jason Peters, and how he was constantly in awe of a man that size who could move so well. Plus, getting to work with Jason Kelce who embraced him from Day 1, and was the first guy to take Brooks to the shore. Not to mention getting to work with and know Lane Johnson, someone who he found was more similar to himself that it would appear.
Brooks couldn’t exclude the Super Bowl win and learning what a championship meant to the City of Philadelphia.