The start of Terrence Brooks' NFL career has been on a slow burn.
The safety,who was selected in the third round of the 2014 draft,has dealt with a serious knee injury and played a limited defensive role during his first two years, and he's now entering a critical offseason.
Brooks is coming off a year where he mostly played a special teams, and he'll have to fight for playing time when the Ravens get back to work during the offseason program this spring. The safety position may have more competition than any other spot on the roster, and Brooks is focused on proving to the coaching staff he has mastered the mental side of the game.
"For the most part, as the safety you have to be the quarterback of the defense," Brooks said. "You want to get the trust of your defensive coordinator and your coaches and things like that. I can't blame anyone else but me for that situation. I'm just going to take that into the offseason and really have a chip on my shoulder and do what I'm supposed to do."
Brooks played 12 games in his sophomore season, notching eight tackles and a pass defensed. But he only saw 67 defensive snaps, compared to 245 as a rookie.
Unlike his rookie season where the Ravens used a steady rotation of safeties, Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis were both firmly entrenched in the lineup throughout the season. That left Brooks mostly on the sidelines, waiting for his opportunity.
"Definitely it's hard for me sitting behind anyone," Brooks said. "It just takes me pretty much doing whatever it takes to get out there on the field – whether that's playing harder in practice, or doing this much more in the games."
Despite the limited production, Brooks said he isn't disappointed with his second year in the NFL. He spent the offseason and early part of training camp recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, and he worked his way back to the field about eight months after the injury.
Getting back from the injury, and finishing the year healthy, is an accomplishment in itself.
"I feel like I definitely accomplished some great things this year recovering from the injury that I had the past year, and just really setting myself up to go into my third year," Brooks said. "I'm glad with where I'm at, but I definitely have a lot of work to do during the offseason to be where I really want to be. It's going to take a little work,but I'll get there."
Brooks believes that going into the offseason healthy will allow him to make significant improvements in his training process over the next few months.
"Now that I can see the way I can move around, I can actually see what I need to work on," he said.
When Brooks and his teammates return to Baltimore in April, the competition at safety will begin. Hill and Lewis are both under contract next season, and veteran defensive back Lardarius Webb has also made the move from corner to safety. Former first-round pick Matt Elam will also be back in the mix after missing last year with a torn biceps muscle.
Brooks believes he can find his spot in the midst of that competition.
"I feel like I positioned myself good and I'm just going out to work hard now," Brooks said. "Now it's just me going and training hard and just doing whatever it takes in the offseason to get me more familiar with the game of football and the NFL."