After signing a well-deserved four-year contract extension on Monday afternoon, Brandon Brooks started the week off on a high note. Little did Pro Football Focus' highest-rated offensive lineman know that the recognition was only just beginning. Brooks was named the Philadelphia Eagles' recipient of the 2019 Ed Block Courage Award on Thursday.
This honor goes to National Football League players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. All 32 teams in the league vote every year to select their Ed Block Courage Award winner for that season. Brooks was selected in a vote by his teammates based on team effort as well as individual performance. Recipients are often players who have overcome devastating injuries or tragedies in their personal lives to return to top-level competition in the NFL. Brooks' ability to overcome adversity stems from his instinct to attack every situation in a similar fashion.
"I always just try to lead by example," Brooks said. "I think it's the best when you lead in the direction that everybody else or you want everybody else to go. For me, attacking the rehab or attacking practice or the way I do things every day is how I lead."
It is well known by now the strength and commitment that Brooks displayed as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon in last January's playoff loss in New Orleans. In most cases, this injury would keep a player down for close to a calendar year. Brooks didn't miss a single game. He is, in fact, playing the best football of his career. According to PFF, he hasn't allowed a sack and is on pace for the fourth-highest rating of any right guard in the analytics service's history (since 2007).
"Being on the field Week 1 meant the most and when I got hurt, and obviously it's an Achilles injury, pretty serious injury, a lot of things were said as far as when I'll be back, if I'll be back, would I be the same player, so on and so forth," Brooks said. "Being a better player than I was before I got hurt probably was the biggest thing for me."
When Brooks' name is brought up in the Eagles' locker room, only positive things are said about his talent and character. This starts with the guy who lines up on his right side, All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson. The bond Johnson and Brooks share on and off the field is truly unmatched. Johnson not only thinks Brooks deserves the Ed Block Courage Award, but also puts his name in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year conversation.
"He's the best at what he does," Johnson said. "I just think with the magnitude of his injury, coming back within a really fast timeline is unbelievable news and having one of his best years. I think he should be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. I don't want them to overlook that because you know they always give it to a skill-position player. I think he should get it. I think it'd be an injustice if he didn't get it."
In the NFL, offensive linemen don't receive the praise and recognition they deserve as the positions along the line are often overlooked. Brooks' comeback and journey from a third-round pick in Houston to a marquee free agent signing of the Eagles in 2016 to a second deal with Philadelphia through the 2024 season, has shed some light on the position group as a whole. Jason Kelce still thinks Brooks deserves more credit and praises his positive impact on the team.
"He hasn't gotten enough credit in my mind since he's been here and part of that is because we have so many good players on our line and on our offense," Kelce said. "In my opinion, he's the best guard in the NFL. Finally, he's getting the recognition that he deserves, not just with the contract but with everything else in the media. It's been long overdue for him. He makes my job a lot easier. He makes everybody's job easier. He's an incredible player."
The resilience Brooks showed after his injury was not only noticed by his linemates, but by players on the other side of the ball. All-Pro defensive tackle and team captain Fletcher Cox shared his thoughts as he watched Brooks tackle the injury recovery process and be an example of grit for the young players in that position group.
"To see a guy come off the surgery that he had, what was it, mid-January, to be ready for Week 1, that says a lot about Brandon and I respect that guy so much, how hard he worked to make sure that he was back and now he's playing at a really high level," Cox said. "It's really important to all of those young guys in the (offensive line) room to let them know that he's not making any excuses about anything coming off surgery. He's just going out and dominating the guy across from him."
While his teammates continue to praise him for everything he does, Brooks is humble and reflects on what this environment has done for his career. He credits his success to the group of guys he has formed unbreakable relationships with and the brotherhood that is the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I look at football as the ultimate team sport. Nobody's out there doing anything on their own. I realized each and every day that I've been fortunate and blessed to not just sign here, but to stay here," Brooks said. "When I came here, I had never been on a squad tight like this. What I mean by that is it's like a true brotherhood."