FOXBORO, Mass. — When the New England Patriots signed safety Terrence Brooks on the first day of NFL free agency, he immediately was lumped in with the likes of Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden and Nate Ebner — great special teamers, but not players asked to contribute much, if at all, on offense or defense.
That characterization might be selling Brooks short.
Though the 27-year-old has gotten plenty of work in the kicking game through eight training camp practices, he’s also seen significant reps with the first-team defense. And he’s made plays: His two pass breakups during Friday upped his camp total to four, the most by any Patriots safety thus far.
?I kind of feel like since I?ve been in the league, ever since I got drafted in Baltimore in the third round (in 2014), they kind of slapped the label on me as a special teams player after I really didn?t get too many opportunities on defense,” Brooks said after Friday’s practice. “But for me, I?ve just been working hard every single day, making sure that I?m prepared when my name is called.
“Fortunately enough, I?m able to come out here and get on some defense with some great guys out here, so I?m just happy to get the opportunity. I feel like I?ve always been confident enough that I?ve been able to do it. It?s just the chance — the opportunity, just to get it. That?s it.”
Since breaking into the league with the Ravens, Brooks never has been more than a bit player defensively. He hasn’t played more than 10 percent of his team’s defensive snaps since his rookie year, when he played 21.7 percent for Baltimore.
With the New York Jets last season, Brooks led the entire NFL in special teams snaps played with 392 but logged just 69 at his listed position (6.2 percent), all of which came during one two-game stretch in mid-October.
His rare defensive cameos have been productive, though. Brooks intercepted a pass for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 despite playing just three defensive snaps all season and hauled in two more picks during a 2017 Jets win over the Miami Dolphins.
?I had some good time on defense,” Brooks said. “It just so happened that I was good on special teams also. And it?s also something that I pride myself in. It?s a significant part of the game. And honestly, wherever I am on the field — whether it?s defense or special teams — I?m just happy to be out here.?
Brooks contract (two years, $4 million with $1.3 million guaranteed) all but guarantees him a roster spot. And while training camp reps aren’t always an indication of regular-season plans, it’d be beneficial for the Patriots to have another safety who could spell starters Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, both of whom turn 32 later this month.
Uber-athletic third-year pro Obi Melifonwu also is vying for that role this summer, and Ebner will look to maintain his position as a core special teamer once he returns from the physically unable to perform list. Third safety Duron Harmon is back this season, as well.
?It was just the opportunity,” Brooks said when asked why he chose to sign with the Patriots. “I mean, who wouldn?t want to go play for a great coach like Bill (Belichick) and be surrounded by this great locker room. That was something that was very important to me.
“And just being wanted. I feel like they believed in me and they wanted me here, and if they have a plan for me, I?m all for it.?