With the San Francisco 49ers reconvening this week for the start of a nine-week voluntary offseason program, three of the team's Week 1 defensive starters from 2013 are no longer around.
Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers signed one-year contracts with the Oakland Raiders. Strong safety Donte Whitner signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.
These departures, however, are not a concern to Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Brooks, a nine-year veteran, can relate to incoming players looking to impress their teammates. He remembered what it was like having to earn a starting job himself.
"We've all been there in that position at one time or another," Brooks told 49ers.com. "You want to make a name for yourself in the National Football League and they've got a chance to do it now. And with the guys we already have, the new guys can step up and make plays. It's going to be a good thing."
The offseason program allows tenured 49ers to mesh with new teammates for the first time.
"It's a great time," Brooks said. "This pretty much lets us know this is the start of a new season. You've got to put everything behind you and prepare for this upcoming season."
One of the new teammates has a different bond with Brooks. Fifth-year cornerback Chris Cook was his teammate at the University of Virginia in 2005.
"He's a good addition," Brooks said of Cook, a former starter for the Minnesota Vikings. "I know what he's capable of doing. He's a big cornerback. He's fast, and I think he will be a good pickup for this team. He'll go out and make some plays."
Cook will be looking to work his way onto the field with Brooks, an established difference-maker on the 49ers defense.
Brooks finished fifth on the team with 52 tackles and recorded a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2013.
Although games are months away, standouts like Brooks can use the offseason training sessions as another form of competition.
"You see how much weight guys are putting up," Brooks said. "You see how fast they're running. It's competition.
"If you compete, iron sharpens iron. The more we compete with each other, the better we'll be."