Brian Dawkins began this workday like he'd begun the 180 others: amped, pumped, absolutely bonkers.
He stood at the front of the reception line, alone, exuberantly welcoming the offense as it was introduced.
He made an "L" with his arms intersected for L.J. Smith. He flew with DeSean Jackson. He pumped up the crowd for Brian Westbrook; and, finally, Dawkins high-fived No. 5 when Donovan McNabb ran out.
He then raced to the sideline and paced. He ripped off his helmet. Pounded it into the bench. Twice.
"That's just what I turn into," Dawkins said. "That's my time to just totally let loose . . . I've been this way since Pop Warner. Coaches have always told me to calm down. I'd get dehydrated, get IVs - before games in high school."
Last night, eons away from Raines High in Jacksonville, Fla., the Eagles honored Dawkins' achievement of longevity. As the defense took the field for the first time in the game, the crowd roared, the JumboTron displayed his feat: 181 games in Eagles green, a club record, one more than wideout Harold Carmichael, who, incredibly, also went to Raines.
"It means a whole lot," Dawkins said. "It is mindboggling to me."
In that moment, Dawkins had no time for tribute. The team's longest-tenured player, the defense's soul at free safety for more than a decade, he was listening to defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's last-minute instructions.
"It was hard not to hear it," Dawkins said, regretful that he could not acknowledge the cheers. "I just thank them. I feel like I've connected with these fans. We come out to party together."
They partied hearty last night.
Dawkins was outstanding in the Eagles' 30-10 win, a win in which the defense surrendered just three points; a late interception return gave the Browns their touchdown.
As he tried to block out the adulation, it became clear: That sort of focus earned him six trips to the Pro Bowl in his 12 full NFL seasons. This is his 13th, all with the Eagles, who picked him in the second round of the 1996 draft.
Dawkins simply wanted to start in the NFL. Then, to get in his 4 years and be vested in the players' pension plan. That done, he shot for 8 years, then 10.
Somehow, now, 181 games.
"That's quite a record," said coach Andy Reid. "Especially at the intensity level he plays."
"That's the only way I know how," Dawkins explained.
He has played on Veterans Stadium's horrid AstroTurf and its laughable successor, NeXturf, and, now, on the grass at Lincoln Financial Field.
He once was the most feared safety in the game. Now, at 35, with 34 interceptions and a wealth of wisdom, he's just very good. He was that last night.
He run-blitzed and tackled Jamal Lewis for a 2-yard loss. He pounced on a "Wildcat" formation and dropped Joshua Cribbs for a 2-yard loss.
Sometimes, the 181 games showed. Like when he clobbered Braylon Edwards on a 20-yard reception . . . and bounced off. A few dozen games ago, maybe Edwards gets knocked off his feet. Maybe 100 games ago, Edwards gets knocked out of the game.
Two plays later, Dawkins blitzed and batted down a pass. That forced the Browns to pass; Ken Dorsey threw an interception that Asante Samuel returned for a touchdown.
The rest of the evening was less eventful but, ultimately, rewarding. A second interception led to an Eagles touchdown. The Browns, grasping, kept sending Cribbs into the backfield in the "Wildcat."
The Eagles weren't fooled.
After 181 games, there isn't much Dawkins hasn't seen. *