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GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers' pass rush should get a long-overdue reinforcement this week.
Ahmad Brooks, the veteran signed before this season to provide depth at outside linebacker, said he expects to return from a back problem Sunday when the Packers play at the Chicago Bears. The Packers signed Brooks before the season after the San Francisco 49ers released him, believing he could be a solid rotational rusher in their defense.
Through nine weeks, Brooks has missed more games than he has played, and he has only one sack. He has been inactive since the Packers' trip to Dallas in Week 5 because of what the Packers listed as a back injury on their injury report, but Brooks said the source of his problem is more complicated.
“It’s not an injury, per se,” Brooks said. “It’s just how my body grew.”
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Brooks said he has a crooked spine, consistent with scoliosis. The condition has caused back spasms to flare up, forcing Brooks to miss the past three games. Some days, Brooks said, his back feels fine. Other days it keeps him from doing football activities.
It’s a condition Brooks said he has been aware of for almost 10 years. Until this season, Brooks said, it hadn’t caused him to miss practices or games.
What was different this season?
“Probably just wear and tear over the years,” Brooks said, “just playing football. Maybe I could’ve done something to trigger it to act up the way it’s acting for the back spasm, and for it to give me complications that it’s been giving me. Maybe I just tweaked an area. I don’t know.”
Brooks said he first felt the spasms the day before the Packers played the Bengals. He was stretching before the team’s walkthrough practice that Saturday, but it wasn’t severe enough to keep him out of practice. Brooks had missed the previous game in Atlanta with a concussion and, given a one-year contract with a new team, he didn’t want to be inactive again.
So Brooks played against the Bengals, and the next two games against the Bears and Cowboys. His back pain only got worse. He hasn’t been active since, though he was listed as a limited participant in practice Wednesday.
“Basically my vertebrae is just pushed forward,” Brooks said. “So that’s what’s causing back spasms. So if I can just manage that in that area, then I’ll be OK. Which, right now I’m feeling OK. It took a while.”
Brook’s crooked-spine condition isn’t going away. It’s something he’ll have to learn how to manage, but Brooks said he doesn’t believe the condition is career-threatening. He wants to play again next season, when he’ll be 34, and hopes the Packers are interested in re-signing him.
The Packers’ primary goal at the position will be getting younger, but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate Brooks from their plans. When healthy, Brooks has been productive. Before this season, he had at least six sacks in each of the past six years, and at least five sacks in each of the past eight.
If everything follows plan, Brooks will have eight more games to show the Packers what he can do.
“If they want me to come back here, you know what I’m saying,” Brooks said, “I would consider to come back here. Because in my mind, I feel like I haven’t done enough for what they’ve done for me. So I want to do more for them.”