Don’t look for Brian Dawkins to rip up his retirement papers and come barreling out of the tunnel ever again. The former Eagle made it clear that this decision is final, 100-percent.
“There is no coming out of retirement for me. It’s final,” Dawkins said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “I’m at peace. I made a promise to myself and to my God that I would know when [to retire]. I made peace about stepping away from the game even though I know I could play another year. I would rather leave a year too early, rather than a year too late.”
Dawkins said he’s been wrestling with the decision for awhile, but the decision really crystallized itself this past weekend. After spending quality time with his wife and kids, he knew. Dawkins plans to help coach his son’s high school football team in Denver, then he’ll “go from there.” He has no immediate desire to coach at the NFL level.
“I’m not saying I won’t miss football. I’ll always miss playing the game,” he said. “I’ll miss the camaraderie … the knuckleheads in the locker room, joking around, being with the guys, preparing for the game, all that stuff.”
He downplayed that injuries — Dawkins missed significant time last season with a pinched nerve in his neck — played any factor in his decision to call it quits.
“I’ve had pinched nerves in my neck before. I had time to heal,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins was more than just a Pro-Bowl player, he completely re-defined the way NFL players approach the safety position. He walks away as one of the most beloved Eagles in franchise history, a player both owner Jeffrey Lurie and Andy Reid called one of their “all-time favorite players.”
“He poured everything he could into doing whatever was best for his teammates and this organization,” Reid said in a statement. “He was the unquestioned leader of our defense. He will go down as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time and I have no doubt we’ll be celebrating his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Under defensive coordinator’s Jim Johnson blitz-happy scheme, Dawkins thrived as a playmaker and morphed into his alter-ego, Weapon X. He is one of just five defensive backs to record at least 30 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career. His 42 forced fumbles ranks fifth in NFL history (No. 1 among defensive backs).
“I don’t know if there would have been a Weapon X if it wasn’t for Jim’s ability to use me,” Dawkins said. “Relentless. That’s what Jim preached and he saw that in the way I played.”
When asked for his greatest Eagles memory, there was no hesitation. None. After three straight losses in the NFC championship game, the Birds finally busted through and beat the Falcons to punch a ticket to the 2004 Super Bowl.
“To see the joy on Jim’s face, the joy and the tears in his eyes … I’ll never forget that,” Dawkins said. “That’s the one memory that will stand out the most for me.”
Bitter end? Dawkins might not retire as Eagle
Yes, the Eagles will honor Brian Dawkins this season. Yes, the fans will give him an ovation worthy of a king. Those things are certain.
What isn’t certain … whether Dawkins will retire as an Eagle. He spent 13 seasons in midnight green before heading to Denver for the past three years.
“I haven’t decided that yet,” Dawkins said. “I still love the place [Philadelphia], and I will make that decision at some point.”
The most beloved player in recent memory — save Reggie White — is seriously considering the possibility of retiring as a Bronco. Even though the Eagles have offered him a one-day contract, Dawkins still remembers the bitterness of his departure.
“There is always going to be pain and feelings there,” he said. “You can learn from the mistakes of the past, but you still remember … at the same time, I understand that the commuity, the fans of Philadelphia mean so much to me that I couldn’t allow that [bitter feelings] to complicate or ruin this celebration.”
Dawkins will be in town Saturday to hold an official press conference and say goodbye to his adoring fans. The Eagles will honor him Sept. 30 at Lincoln Financial Field prior to the Eagles-Giants game on Sunday Night Football.
“I can only imagine, man,” Dawkins said, referring to his emotions and the fans’ reaction. “Hopefully, it will be a victory at the same time.”