IRVING, Tex. - For 11 seasons, linebacker Keith Brooking was a stalwart in the Atlanta Falcons'…
Brooking the Perfect Fit
When he signed last year, Brooking said the chance to play again for Dallas head coach Wade Phillips factored heavily into his decision. A year later, his fondness and admiration for his coach have not waned in the slightest. "When you break down his record as a head coach — and I'm not even talking about what he has done as a defensive coordinator — but as a head coach, he does a remarkable job," Brooking said. "He knows every single guy in this locker room, and he puts us in positions to play to our strengths. That's one of his strengths." Phillips' primary strength, of course, is designing defenses, and Brooking said his coach's defensive ideas have withstood the test of time over the course of Phillips's career, which is still going 34 years after he took his first job in 1976, as defensive line coach for the Houston Oilers. "His scheme has held up for a lot of years," Brooking said. "Like I said, he puts every player in a position to play to his strengths. "This league is about matchups, so teams try to expose players. He's as good as anyone about exploiting matchups for other teams, and not letting us get exposed so other teams can do that to us." The other reason Brooking sees a perfect fit in Dallas is because the Cowboys have a chance to make history by becoming the first team ever to play in a Super Bowl held in its home stadium. Like any sage veteran, Brooking resists even discussing the idea, but when pressed, he acknowledges having considered the idea of playing the sport's ultimate game at home. "You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself," he said. "But I'd be lying to you if I told you I hadn't thought about that. That's understandable. "We know the passion of this town and its fans — it's incredible." But as soon as he admits to having considered the idea, Brooking backs off, remind all within earshot — both media and teammates alike — that the Cowboys have a lot to accomplish before they can foster any thoughts of playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium. "I've played in this league long enough to know that it's a grind," he said. "We've got to have laser-sharp focus, to have blinders on. We can't look around. "I try to preach that to the younger guys. We've got to hold guys to that idea: it's a very long season."
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