New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks is working hard at training camp, but he's also doing a lot of brooding. Brooks is happy to be the Saints starter. He is not happy that he is not being paid what most NFL quarterbacks get.
"I don't think they should have waited to re-negotiate my contract,'' Brooks said on Tuesday. "I don't accept that they had to get the others done first. I'd think they would want to keep me happy and show that they appreciate me, but they haven't done it.''
Brooks, who is entering the final year of his contract, stayed out of training camp for the first three days to show his distress. This year, Brooks' contract was originally worth $350,000. When the collective bargaining agreement extension between the league and players' union kicked in after last season, his salary jumped to the new minimum of $450,000, which makes him the third lowest-paid starting quarterback in the NFL.
He will also make less than 34 players on the Saints roster including No. 2 quarterback Jake Delhomme ($563,000) and No. 3 Jeff Lewis ($550,000).
The starter for New Orleans since taking over for Jeff Blake in the 10th game of the 2000 season, Brooks led the Saints to their only playoff victory ever. Last year he was less successful late in the season when the Saints went into a four-game losing streak to close out the season. In the team's final four games - all losses - Brooks threw 13 interceptions and only seven touchdowns while the Saints were outscored 160-52.
"I learned from that,'' Brooks said. "I'm a lot better quarterback this year. I know now that I can't be responsible for every player on the team. I just have to do my job.''
On the season last year, Brooks completed 55.9 percent of his passes for 3,832 yards and a team-record 26 touchdowns. He also set team records for rushing yards by a quarterback (358) and total yards (4,190), but also threw 22 interceptions.
This year Brooks, 26, seems more mature and more in charge on the field. He still likes to pass the football, but he said that he's learned not to rely on one or two receivers as he did last year. And he likes the offense he's running, one that has been speeded up with the addition of No. 1 draft pick Donte Stallworth and free agent Jerome Pathon at wide out.
"What you're seeing is a lot of players getting smarter, including me,'' Brooks said. "We didn't always play smart last year.''
Putting his unhappiness over his contract out of his mind is not always easy, however.
"It's hard,'' Brooks said. "Sometimes I'll be out there and it flashes through my mind.''
Mickey Loomis, who took over as the general manager in May when Randy Mueller was suddenly fired, said he needed to sign the draft picks and extend coach Jim Haslett's contract before concentrating on Brooks.
"I don't accept that,'' Brooks said. "I just know there's no reason for not re-negotiating with me.''
Loomis said he talked to Brooks agent, Andre Colona, earlier this week, but nothing was worked out. Brooks refused to speculate on what the was causing the impasse.