Farewell, Brian Dawkins: Fan favorite retires after long, storied career

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 would rather leave a year too early, rather than a year too late.”

Dawkins said he’s been wrestling with the decision to retire for awhile, but it crystallized itself this past weekend. After spending quality time with his wife and kids, he knew. Dawkins said he plans to help coach his son’s high school football team in Denver, then he’ll “go from there.”

“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 in 2011 with a pinched nerve in his neck — played any factor in his decision.

“I’ve had pinched nerves in my neck before. I had time to heal,” Dawkins said.

Dawkins completely redefined 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.”

Under defensive coordinator’s Jim Johnson blitz-happy scheme, Dawkins thrived and morphed into his alter-ego, Weapon X.

“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.

When asked for his greatest Eagles memory, there was no hesitation. After three straight losses in the NFC championship game, the Birds finally punched 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.”

No. 20 to retire as a Bronco?

Brian Dawkins couldn’t hide it. The way the Birds discarded him after the 2008 season still hurts.

The most beloved player in recent memory is considering the possibility of retiring as a Bronco. The Eagles have offered him a one-day contract, but Dawkins still hasn’t decided.

“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 … I understand that the community, the fans of Philadelphia mean so much to me that I couldn’t allow that to complicate or ruin this celebration.”

The Eagles will honor him Sept. 30 at Lincoln Financial Field prior to the Eagles-Giants game.

Former Eagle deserves bronze bust in Canton

There are nine safeties enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Brian Dawkins should increase that number by one, when he’s eligible in five years. There are many reasons why. For starters, Dawkins simply changed people’s perceptions of the safety position.

“The NFL will miss a player as talented, ferocious and determined as Brian Dawkins,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He was one of the most dedicated and hardest working players I have ever coached.”

In the early days, the safety was just that, a safety valve. He was there to help out if someone missed an assignment up front. But Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense turned the NFL into a passing league. San Francisco’s Ronnie Lott was the first real beneficiary, as evidenced by his 63 career interceptions.

And while Lott will most likely go down as the greatest NFL safety, Dawkins deserves to be on that short list. Dawkins could blitz like an end, hit like a linebacker and cover like a corner. He was Troy Polamalu before Troy Polamalu.

Dawkins will have to wait until 2017 to find out if he’ll be joining Lott in Canton. He admitted that would be “awesome,” but it isn’t something he ever focused on.

“If my number and name is called on that day, it’ll be a blessing,” he said. “It’ll be a blessed day for not only my family members and myself, but for a lot of people.”

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