BROOKS HEARS THE CLOCK TICKING THE REDSKINS BACK, SLOWED BY INJURY, WATCHES AS OTHERS TRY TO STEAL HIS JOB.
Washington Redskins running back Reggie Brooks is fighting a two-headed monster in training camp, waiting for his left hamstring to heal and watching others get a leg up on his job.
Brooks, who two seasons ago rushed for more than 1,000 yards but hasn't been completely healthy since, took part in his first two workouts of camp Monday.
In the morning he donned pads, shorts and a helmet and did a little blocking and some light, noncontact running. In the afternoon he came to Bobcat Stadium in full football regalia and did slightly more work, running out of the backfield in seven-on-seven drills to grab passes from quarterbacks Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte.
Meanwhile, veteran free agent Terry Allen, rookie Larry Jones and second-year pro Tyrone Rush are eagerly pursuing Brooks' place in the lineup. All three have played every day, and all three may be ahead of Brooks on the depth chart.
``I'm not concentrating on who else is out there,'' Brooks said. ``It's tough for me from the standpoint that I need to be able to be out there for myself. I need the work to get ready.''
If Brooks' showing Monday was intended to catch the eye of coach Norv Turner, it failed.
``I'm not even going to watch him until he's taking part in real drills,'' Turner said. ``Every practice Reggie misses makes it tougher for him. We need to get him back. I think I have a pretty good feel for what he can do; now he needs to show me that he can go more than two weeks without a nagging injury.''
Brooks, who injured the hamstring July 20 (1995) in pre-camp workouts at Redskin Park, has heard this before. Last season (1994), in fact. He came to camp with a hamstring pull suffered at a made-for-TV competition, then injured his ribs and back, and finally was benched until the last game of the season.
As Brooks languished in the background for 10 weeks, Turner often said that the Notre Dame product wasn't healthy enough to play.
``I was ready,'' he said Monday. ``That's a coaching decision, and I can't get into that. It's not something I can dictate. He makes his decisions predicated on what he believes. My main concern now is to get healthy and get back on the field.''
Brooks, who slumped to 297 yards in 1994, said he rededicated himself to football last offseason like never before. His weight dropped from 215 to 207, he spent more time stretching and strengthening his hamstrings than before, and he was ready to re-establish himself.
That changed when he was a victim in an automobile accident the final week of June. His left knee swelled as a result of the collision, he altered the way he was walking, and he says that brought on the hamstring strain.
He also admits, however, that he has abnormally large hamstring muscles that strain more readily than most, and that hamstrings have been a problem since he ran track in high school.
``I need to get better at stretching and building flexibility,'' Brooks said. ``I have to work harder. I have learned my lesson.''
Brooks says he isn't worried about the competition, but he went to trainer Bubba Tyer late last week and asked to be allowed back on the field.
Tyer said yes, but with plenty of restrictions.
``He's anxious and I think a little upset that we haven't let him do more,'' Tyer said. ``He just has to be patient so we can make sure he's as healthy as he can be. The worst thing that could happen would be for him to reinjure it.''
Brooks and management have had an uneasy alliance since Turner took over. In one breath, Brooks says he became overeager last season and ``tried to do too many things, rather than what the coaches wanted me to do.'' Later, he deflects responsibility onto Turner for Washington's woeful running game.
``I'm not going to sit here and take the blame for everything,'' Brooks said. ``Half the season, I didn't even play. I can't take responsibility for things I wasn't part of.''
Brooks will continue going slowly, adding certain drills each day, until next week. That means he'll miss Saturday's preseason opener against Kansas City.
``But I'll get nervous if, come next week, I'm not getting the work I need,'' he said. ``It won't matter what anyone says then. I'll be out there. I am confident I'll get enough work under my belt in three games.''
And if the Redskins decide to go with someone other than Brooks as their primary ground gainer? It's fine with him.
``I'm comfortable with my decisions,'' he said. ``If they feel I'm not the man here, then that's their decision. If I'm given the opportunity, I'll show my ability.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo
Running back Reggie Brooks, slowed by a hamstring injury, returned
to the practice field Monday.