The Mental Game


Brooks had 1,010 receiving yards last season for the Packers.

Robert Brooks sits at his locker, leans back, and says he's more motivated this year than ever.

That's good news for the Packers, coming from someone who holds multiple Green Bay receiving records and who has overcome numerous injuries.

The inspiration comes from his son, Robert Daniel, born only weeks before the regular season.

"When I had back surgery (early in 1997 training camp), I thought about my son," Brooks says. "I have a family now to take care of. It's good, because it gives me that extra drive."

He's already had plenty of drive in the past, and it explains why at only 6-feet, 180 pounds, he can dominate an NFL game, why he could catch 102 passes and 13 touchdowns in 1995 while setting the Packers' all-time single-season record with 1,497 yards.

Brooks says it also explains the real reason he's playing in the season opener after back surgery last month and major knee surgery in 1996.

It's simple, he says: mind over matter.

Legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi taught the same concept in the 1960s. "Character," Lombardi said, "is the result of two things: mental attitude, and the way we spend our time."

Brooks exudes that type of character.

He says he stays positive, plans ahead, sticks to his plan and has a strong faith. That's how he approaches everything, whether it's running a slant pattern, doing charity work or recording his latest CD, Down With the Bay. It's his mental game.

"His work ethic is as good as anybody's I've ever been around," Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis says. "He's dedicated, he works hard." Brooks says it starts in the offseason, when he pushes through pain during his intense training program.

"I'm not going to get tired (in a game) if I've prepared," Brooks says.

"And when you get tired, that's when you start dropping balls and looking sloppy."

Brooks also studies the Packers' complicated offense for hours. And hours.

And he doesn't do it because he doesn't know his routes.

"I know what I have to do," he says. "But I like to know what the tight end is doing to get me open, or what I'm doing to help the tight end get open. I'm trying to get so advanced I know exactly where the running back is."

Quarterback Brett Favre appreciates that, and can rely on Brooks to know what he's thinking on a given play before he even gets the snap.

"I can do that with Brooks and (Antonio) Freeman," Favre says.

Brooks says all that preseason preparation makes pre-game preparation simple. "I pray," he says. "That's it, man. It clears my mind. It's easy after that."

Brooks says that that's what calms him down, allows him to play loosely, fearlessly, even smile after a devastating hit. That's why he doesn't fear oncoming defenders when he runs a route over the middle.

"If I have my eyes and my mind on the football, most of the times I don't even see the guy," Brooks says. "That helps me take my mind off whether I'm going to take a hit. Because most of the time, you're going to get hit whether you catch the ball or not."

Equally punishing are Favre's passes.

"Yeah, he throws really hard," Brooks says, "so you've got to be ready when you turn out of your break, you've got to get your head out and eyes up and find where his right arm is at all times."

Mind over matter.

"Sometimes he passes side-armed or under-handed, so it could be coming from anywhere."

No matter where Brooks' next challenges come from, it's a safe bet he'll be prepared for them.

Lombardi would be proud, and Robert Daniel will be.

*For information on Brooks' CDs and other endeavors, visit his web site at *

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