DENVER -- Cornerback Willie Middlebrooks is getting a second chance at winning over football fans who soured on him for his transgressions, both on and off the field.
The Broncos' former first-round draft pick who never lived up to
his billing in Denver signed a one-year deal with his old team
Thursday after a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Broncos drafted Middlebrooks in 2001. He played four seasons in Denver before he was traded to the 49ers in 2005. He appeared in five games in San Francisco in three separate stints and was waived for the fourth and final time in December.
In February, Middlebrooks pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault of a female friend in the Denver suburb of Littleton. He received an 18-month deferred jail sentence and was ordered to complete nine months of domestic violence classes.
"The second time around, I hate to say it's personal, but it is
personal for me, not to any coaches or anybody. But it's just
something personal that I've got to prove. That's how I feel,"
Middlebrooks said after participating in the team's passing camp
What is he out to prove his second time through?
"Just that I'm a solid football player and belong in this
league. And just wipe every doubt that coaches or teams even fans
that had about me," Middlebrooks said. "Just get that erased out
of their minds."
In 56 regular-season games, Middlebrooks has 23 tackles, one
sack, 12 pass breakups and one fumble recovery. He has 41 tackles
on special teams in regular-season games and one defensive tackle
in one postseason appearance.
Middlebrooks left after the Broncos drafted three cornerbacks last year: Darrent Williams, Karl Paymah and Domonique Foxworth. With so much talent at that position, Middlebrooks said he's willing to shift to safety. Either way, he hopes to make his mark again on special teams.
His comeback, he said, will be smoother because he's already familiar with the team and the town.
"After the trade I actually put my house on the market,"
Middlebrooks said. "Thank God, it didn't sell. I walked right back
in and got in my own bed."
Middlebrooks said his court case definitely hurt his image
around the league.
"A lot of teams I talked to they kind of frowned at it," he
said. "I think it affected me mentally, just playing and going
through court. That stuff is behind me."
Maybe not. If Middlebrooks makes the team, he could still face
punishment from the commissioner.
"I'll cross that bridge when I get there," Middlebrooks said.
"I can't look and say what if this happens and keep staring down
stuff that's not certain right now."