There are advantages to being the old guy in one of the youngest locker rooms in the NFL.
“They bring me juice boxes,” Detroit Lions defensive end Michael Brockers joked Thursday.
At 31 years old, Brockers is the graybeard in a Lions locker room full of 20-somethings. He’s 10 years older than first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson, who was in middle school when Brockers was drafted, and the only player older than 28 on the Lions roster, though 11 seasons into his NFL career he insists he still is young at heart.
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“It’s crazy, cause I don’t consider myself being an old guy, but I am,” Brockers said. “I told a guy I was 31, and he was like, ‘Damn.’ I was like, ‘Damn, that’s not that old!’ But it’s cool. It’s cool. I mean, there’s a lot of young guys, but I feel like I’m young, too, so I fit in right along with them.”
The Lions acquired Brockers in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams last spring in part to inject some veteran know-how into their young roster.
He missed substantial time in training camp with a shoulder injury, but was one of three defensive players (along with Will Harris and Nick Williams) to start at least 16 games last season.
The Lions had one of the NFL’s youngest defenses in 2021 and likely will again this fall after spending high draft picks on Hutchinson and second-round defensive lineman Josh Paschal.
Brockers said his cohorts on the Lions defensive line, whose average age is 23.7 years old, help keep him young by introducing him to new music and asking him probing questions like, “What does it feel like to be old?”
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“In my position, it feels good,” Brockers said. “I’m a guy, I never had really a serious injury, never had really a really serious surgery, so I’m fortunate to not have gone through that. But you ask a lot of guys in my position, you hear a lot of different stories.”
As experienced as he is, Brockers will have a semi-new role on the Lions revamped defense this fall.
He played as a strong-side defensive end in Thursday’s open organized team activities practice and said he expects to play primarily out of the 4i and three techniques in the Lions’ defensive line rotation.
The Lions have gone to a more attacking even-man front, which Brockers said is similar to the defense he played in with the Rams.
“You got a 3-4 kind of feel to you, but it’s more attack than reading and freeing up the linebackers,” he said. “It’s more about everybody has a gap, hit your gap, win your gap and let’s go play some ball.”
Brockers should contend for a starting job on the Lions’ defensive line, which features four recent draft picks in Hutchinson, Paschal and 2021 Day 2 choices Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike.
He is taking part in OTAs this spring after staying away from most offseason workouts for family reasons last year, in part, he said, to take on the leadership role the Lions have tasked him with again.
“Last year, I wanted to get around with these coaches, new staff. I just wanted to show my face. They brought me here for a reason,” Brockers said. “This year I just so happened that all my kids are in school and I’m stuck places, so it’s just been a good experience with the team.”
As for how much longer he wants to play, Brockers, who has no guaranteed money left on his contract after this season, said that’s to be determined.
He watched his good friend and fellow 31-year-old, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, publicly contemplate retirement this offseason, and while Brockers is not quite there yet, he knows age will only be on his side for so long.
“I’m onto Year 11 so I can see in my future, ‘Oh man, I don’t have too many more years ahead of me,'” Brockers said. “If I’m blessed to play 15, I think that’ll be great. But if I’m not, I’ll be happy as well. I played a long time and I’ve just been so thankful.”