Ahmad Brooks said Wednesday he made a midflight apology to 49ers defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula, the focus of the outside linebacker’s sideline tirade Sunday, and all sides are eager to put the incident behind them.
“On the ride back home, on the plane, I felt bad. I felt bad, and I didn’t like that feeling,” Brooks said in front of his locker. “So I decided to apologize to Jimmy Tomsula because that’s who I said those words to.”
Brooks, 30, said he didn’t take himself out of the game against the New York Giants, an act that likely would have led to a stiff penalty, but was benched.
“I reacted out of my character,” he said. “I did not quit on the team. I did not take myself out of the game.”
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Brooks started the game – his 58th consecutive regular-season start – but apparently lashed out at Tomsula when the assistant coach sent Aldon Smith and rookie Aaron Lynch into the game at outside linebacker.
Coach Jim Harbaugh declined to say how the 49ers dealt with Brooks, but Brooks indicated he was fined. He said he expects to play Sunday against Washington, the team his late father, Perry Brooks, played for in the 1980s. Ahmad Brooks grew up outside of Washington, D.C.
With Smith suspended for the first nine games, the 49ers were counting on Brooks to compensate early in the season. He leads the team with four sacks, and it was Brooks’ sack and forced fumble in New Orleans on Nov. 9 that allowed the 49ers to win in overtime.
But Brooks hasn’t made the overall impact coaches were hoping for, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio even went so far in the offseason to say that Brooks was a bit overweight.
Lynch, meanwhile, has come on strong in recent weeks and has had three sacks in his past four games. Lynch, a fifth-round draft pick, has a modest salary over the next 31/2 seasons, while Brooks’ salary cap figure leaps to $9 million in coming years. That’s likely why, according to a national report, the 49ers tried to deal Brooks to Cleveland before the trade deadline last week.
Harbaugh said he had no comment on that report but that Brooks is being counted on this season.
“The cold, hard facts are the last 58 games – he’s started the last 58 games,” Harbaugh said. “Nobody has answered the bell more than Ahmad Brooks has for this football team. … I trust Ahmad Brooks.”
The team’s handling of Brooks underscores his importance and differs from how other teams have dealt with disgruntled players recently. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance, released running back LeGarrette Blount this week after he reportedly walked off the field before Monday’s game ended. And the Cleveland Browns cut running back Ben Tate after he expressed frustration with his diminishing role in the offense.
What’s clear is Brooks’ playing time will dip with Smith back from his suspension. And outside linebacker Dan Skuta, who started the first eight games of the season, appears ready to return from an ankle injury that kept him out of the past two games.
How will Brooks handle a lineup with several players vying for playing time?
“I’m going to hope and pray it doesn’t ever happen again,” Brooks said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m second to anybody. So if it ever were to happen again, then I’ll keep my mouth shut and not say anything.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.