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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With great reluctance and more than a few tears, Philadelphia Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks announced his retirement Wednesday after 10 seasons in the NFL.
The 32-year-old Brooks, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, became one of the NFL’s best guards after the Eagles signed him in free agency in 2016, he helped Philadelphia win a Super Bowl four years ago.
A third-round pick by the Houston Texans out of Miami (Ohio) in 2012, Brooks blossomed under renowned offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. Brooks spent about four minutes of his retirement announcement thanking dozens of people, but he saved Stoutland for last.
“I feel like it is rare to have a coach who is as impactful on the field as off,” Brooks said. “He took me from being a good player to being the best at my position.”
Brooks said that even after he refined his play to Stoutland’s standard, “you pushed me continuously to strive for more, because hungry dogs run faster, and always will. … Through all my struggles and low moments, I could always count on a phone call from you, the topic never being about football, but about life and how much you could help. … You are family, and always will be.”
Brooks said he doesn’t think he has lost his skills, but he can’t stay healthy. A string of four serious injuries that began with a torn Achilles tendon in January 2019 prevented him from playing all but two games the last two seasons.
He said that as he wrestled with the decision, he asked himself: “At what point do you listen to your body? I’m having injury after injury. At what point do I listen?”
Brooks, quick and powerful at 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, with massive arms and thighs, developed into a key figure for one of the league’s most prominent offensive lines. He gained more positive attention after publicly acknowledging his fight with debilitating anxiety after the condition was diagnosed in 2016.
“It has always been a part of me. It will always be a part of me; it will always be something I deal with,” Brooks said Wednesday. “When it comes to (anxiety), I just want to be known as a person who is transparent, a person who just wanted to help others by sharing my story.”
Brooks was able to help Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson when his issues with depression led to a three-game absence this past season. Johnson returned home to Oklahoma just before the Eagles hosted Kansas City on Oct. 3. When he came back to the Philadelphia area, Brooks went to visit him.
“I really didn’t have to say anything at first; we just sat there. Sometimes words aren’t necessarily needed,” Brooks said. “We sat there and we really just kind of reflected on life — the ups and downs, the struggles, the things you 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. I think that made our bond a lot closer, a lot stronger.”
This season, when Brooks suffered a torn pectoral tendon in Week 2, the team thought he might be able to return in about two months; he’d exceeded expectations with recoveries following both of his Achilles tendon surgeries and his shoulder surgery. But this time, that didn’t happen.
“I think you realize at a certain age, your body’s not necessarily recovering like it used to. It took a little longer than I would have liked,” Brooks said. “In the end, I didn’t have enough time to get where I needed to be to at least get a couple of practices under my belt” before the Eagles were eliminated from the wild-card round of the playoffs by Tampa Bay. “It was unfortunate, really, the last two years, how things ended. But for me, it was a lot more about the journey. You can’t have joy without sadness, right? The first four years (with the Eagles) I wouldn’t trade for the world, (even) if I had to weather these last two.”
Brooks said he plans to remain in the Philly area, and will apply to business school at the University of Pennsylvania. Though he was born and raised in Wisconsin, Brooks said he feels a special bond with Eagles fans.
He noted how he hadn’t realized how much finally winning the Super Bowl would mean to the city, which hadn’t seen an NFL championship since 1960. He recalled seeing people carrying their loved ones’ ashes along the parade route.
“I wanted to show the city I loved them as much as they loved me, as much as they supported me,” he said.
The Eagles seem to be in decent shape with Nate Herbig or Jack Driscoll available to replace Brooks, as they have done for much of the past two seasons. Or left guard Isaac Seumalo could move to the right side. After Seumalo went down for the season with a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 3, second-round pick Landon Dickerson filled in quite capably, and might be the left guard going forward.
Brooks reworked his contract to help the Eagles’ cap situation. His retirement means he stays on the cap at $7 million until June 1, then will count $5.9 million in dead money this year, and $9.8 million in dead money in 2023, when the cap is expected to grow substantially.
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