Any sports fan knows NFL stands for National Football League, but the long-standing cliché in locker rooms is Not For Long is an equally apt acronym. And with that knowledge, players understand it’s better to rent than own property in their profession.
After years of living by this creed, defensive lineman Michael Brockers got lulled into a false sense of security in a business that never truly provides long-term stability.
After playing with the same franchise from nine years, and fresh off signing a new, three-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams last offseason, Brockers broke his lease-only philosophy when he and wife Faith purchased a home in the affluent suburb of Calabasas.
Now, a year later, Brockers is on the move after getting traded to the Detroit Lions.
“When you buy a house, my wife fell in love with it,” Brockers said. “She was like, ‘We weren’t in the house a year yet and now we have to leave.’ We felt like we’ve seen so many times ex-teammates and other friends that we have in the league, once you buy the team is like, ‘Oh, you bought something, we’re gonna move you.’
“… She was definitely like, I just want to get a little more time in in,” Brockers said. “We’re definitely figuring things out. It was definitely a tough experience when I found out about the move because we were all out of town, on vacation. I finally told her and she was like, ‘Wow,’ as it finally hit her.”
Not for long, indeed.
Brockers, 30, isn’t looking for sympathy, probably because he’s not going to find much after earning more than $60 million during his career and scoring a new three-year, $24-million pact with the Lions upon his arrival. But wealth doesn’t lessen many of the challenges of moving across the country, particularly when you have three children leaving behind the comforts of home.
But personal challenges aside, Brockers is embracing his move on the professional side. That might seem surprising, given he’s leaving a Super Bowl contender to come to one of the league’s least-successful franchises, but he appears genuinely excited for the challenge ahead — serving as a cultural building block for this era of Detroit Lions football — as he enters the backside of his career.
Brockers, like many of the other new faces in Detroit, is rejecting the term rebuild. As he puts it, “I’m 10 years in, man. I’m not trying to rebuild.”
To be fair, this isn’t new ground for him. When he was drafted by the Rams in 2012, the team was coming off a 2-14 season and had just hired a new coach in Jeff Fisher. They went on to win seven games Brockers’ rookie season.
But the example he likes more is 2017. The Rams had sunk to 4-12 the year before, firing Fisher and hiring an energetic, first-time coach in Sean McVay. Fueled by shrewd free-agent signings and some big hits in the draft, the team immediately turned things around, going 11-5 and setting the course for a Super Bowl trip the following season.
It seems ludicrous the Lions could chart the same path, but don’t tell that to Brockers.
“I definitely have seen a dramatic change, a dramatic shift in a team when you have a good coaching staff and great players on a team,” he said. “It’s more about what a team can do, what the players can do and what the coaches can do together to win games. It’s not about I’m bringing this style of coaching, or I’m bringing, you know, let’s say the ‘Patriot Way’ to Detroit. It’s not about that. It’s about getting together, coming together, coaches, players, staff, media, everybody being of one mind, doing whatever we have to do to win games. I think with that, when you have that accountability between one another, and you put the team at the forefront of each decision you make, I’ve seen that dramatic shift in a team.
“I don’t believe it can’t happen again.”
The way the Lions see it, Brockers is one of those great players who will help establish championship-caliber accountability in the locker room, applying the lessons he’s learned as a three-time captain of the Rams.
On the field, Brockers’ role won’t be defined until all the pieces are place and the team starts practicing together. The obvious fit for the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder is along the interior of the defensive line, where his ability to generate quarterback pressures will be a welcomed addition to a team that struggled in that department last season.
That said, Brockers played nearly half of his defensive snaps at defensive end for the Rams in 2020 and expects to similarly be used across the front by the Lions.
“They definitely said I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Brockers said. “I’m really versatile. I can play anywhere, so it really doesn’t matter to me. I can play anywhere on the defensive line.”
What we know, based on what coach Dan Campbell has said, is the Lions intend to schematically replicate the defensive front the Rams used under former coordinator Brandon Staley. At its core, it’s still a 3-4 look, like the Lions ran under former coach Matt Patricia, but the new incarnation is focused more on attacking gaps than controlling them.
“The fact that you can get one-on-ones when you have those rushers on the edge and you don’t know which one is coming,” Brockers said when asked his favorite part of the scheme. “Sometimes we bring both of them and sometimes we bring the Will (linebacker), so you never know which one is coming. They’re always standing up on the outside, so you have to respect that. We get a lot of one-on-ones inside, with the guards. Usually those quick wins inside, beating a guard, is the quickest way to get to the quarterback. Having those one-on-one opportunities definitely set yourself up for success.”
For Brockers, the initial shock of the trade has worn off quickly. Detroit is home now. And if he can make himself at home in opposing backfields the way he did for the Rams, that would be OK, too.