Brian Dawkins said he wouldn't think about any of it, not his record longevity, not the man whose mark he was surpassing last night, not any of the 181 Eagles regular-season games of which he's been a part since the team selected him in the second round of the 1996 draft.
But when he stepped onto the field at Lincoln Financial Field last night, even the hyper-focused Dawkins couldn't ignore his achievement. Neither his teammates nor the fans would let him.
After the offense failed to score on their opening drive of what would become a 30-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, a message flashed on the end zone video boards announcing that the 35-year-old Dawkins, a career Eagle, had surpassed the beloved Harold Carmichael in games played.
Dawkins was on the sideline talking with an assistant coach at the time, but when he jogged onto the field, the packed house at Lincoln Financial Field gave him a lengthy, warm ovation. His teammates gathered around and patted Dawkins on the back. Like the fans, the players knew.
Philadelphia sports figures don't last forever, and Dawkins is the longest-tenured active athlete in this city, which presumably lost another lifer last week when the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez to play Pat Burrell's position in the outfield. Last night might have been one of Dawkins' final big moments here. A career achievement. A big win, to stay in the playoff hunt. A long, loud ovation.
Dawkins has said that he hopes this season will end the way Burrell's and the Phillies' did in late October - with a championship - but that is an improbability. For now, though, last night was as much about Dawkins as it was about the Eagles' eighth win of the season, and third straight.
He has been the soul of the Eagles' defense for more than a decade, a quiet, prayerful man off the field, and a demon on it. Dawkins has been in the Eagles' secondary longer than Andy Reid has been the coach, which can feel like a lifetime.
Although there have been whispers in recent seasons, including earlier in this one, that Dawkins' skills and speed have eroded past the point of effectiveness, he has remained an integral part of the Eagles' defense. And he's gotten stronger as this season has progressed, much to the delight of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who last week said that he had been worried about Dawkins' overall health midway through the season.
Last night, Dawkins was active early, getting into the Browns' backfield to pressure quarterback Ken Dorsey. He had two tackles for loss and finished with four tackles.
After a David Akers field goal gave the Eagles a 23-3 lead early in the fourth quarter, Dawkins walked to every defensive starter on the sideline and shook his fist. The message: No mercy.
No player's voice carries Dawkins' weight, because no one has ever played in more games.
"That's quite a record," Andy Reid said. "When you think about it, that's a lot of football games, especially the intensity level he plays at."