Broncos sign veteran free agent LB Keith Brooking

Associated Press Modified: August 6, 2012 at 8:31 pm •  Published: August 6, 2012
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The last time linebacker Keith Brooking got up close to John Elway, the Denver Broncos were celebrating their Super Bowl win over his Atlanta Falcons for their second straight title.

"That's the first thing I mentioned to him," Brooking said Monday after the 15th-year veteran signed with the Broncos. "I was like, 'By the way, I haven't forgotten '98.'"

The 36-year-old Brooking was a wide-eyed rookie back then. He's been to five Pro Bowls since but hasn't gotten back to the Super Bowl.

"So, that's even more of a reason to continue to play and strive to get there," Brooking said. "That's what this is all about at this point. Not a lot of fond memories from that evening in Miami, for sure — or the night before."

That's when safety Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, sending the Falcons for a loop just hours before the biggest game of their lives.

Elway led Denver to a 34-19 win in the last game of his Hall of Fame career. They won just one playoff game in the next dozen years before he returned in a front office role last year.

Brooking went on to play another decade in Atlanta before a three-year stint in Dallas.

He has played in all 16 regular-season games for 11 consecutive years, starting all of them in nine of those seasons. But he started just three games last year, when he was supplanted by Sean Lee.

Brooking recorded 34 tackles in 2011, his lowest total since 21 in his rookie season, but that didn't scare off the Broncos.

"We had him in for a workout and thought he looked outstanding," coach John Fox said.

"I'm excited, man," Brooking said. "It's obviously a great place to be. I think this team is set to make a run, and I'm very excited to be a small part of it."

Brooking said he was lured to Denver by the chance to work alongside Fox, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and quarterback Peyton Manning, whom he called "arguably the best that's ever played this game."

Brooking said he would work at both weakside and strongside linebacker with the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32), which could spell trouble for second-year pros Nate Irving and Mike Mohamed as they fight for roster spots. Brooking also isn't averse to making his mark on special teams: "I'm not too big for that, even though I've been in this league a long time."

Brooking's first action won't come until Saturday, giving him a chance to really get acclimated.

"I haven't been in the offseason program, so I'd be lying to you if I said that I was in game shape and ready to go," he said. "But my legs feel good; they still have pop in them. ... I had a lot of blows to the head and a few surgeries. I'm not what I was eight years ago, but relatively speaking, my body feels really good."