One Eagles player some suspected to be over the hill and another some thought came at too high a price yesterday were named to the Pro Bowl.
Brian Dawkins, 35, the free safety who has been the heart and soul of the Eagles for more than a decade, and Asante Samuel, the cornerback the team signed to a six-year contract worth $57 million, were chosen to play for the NFC.
Dawkins, in his 13th season, was selected for the seventh time, putting him up with Hall of Fame inductees Chuck Bednarik (eight) and Reggie White (seven) for the most in team history. Dawkins' selection marks a dramatic turnaround from last season, when he suffered a neck injury that sidelined him for five games, raising questions that his brilliant career was on the slide.
"This is a huge accomplishment with all I've gone through the last couple of years," Dawkins said.
After a so-so start to this season that fueled speculation his age had caught up to him, Dawkins resumed the kind of disruptive, physical play that has been the hallmark of a career that should land him in the Hall of Fame.
Dawkins was well aware of the talk.
"As a human being, negative things are always going to creep into your head," he said. "I didn't believe that was going to be the end result and that I'd have to retire because of [the neck injury]. I kept pressing forward. I had faith I'd be able to get back to a high level."
Dawkins played in his 181st game in Monday night's 30-10 win over Cleveland, setting an Eagles record. This season, he ranks first on the team with four forced fumbles and is second with nine tackles for losses. He is tied with Eric Allen and Bill Bradley for the all-time team lead with 34 interceptions.
Samuel's ability to make interceptions was a major reason the Eagles signed him during the off-season after the cornerback left New England, where he helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls. Samuel has 20 interceptions since the start of the 2006 season, including four this season. He ran one back 50 yards for a touchdown against the Browns.
"I've never played with someone who has the closing speed he has," Dawkins said of Samuel. "I've never seen anybody get into position to make picks like he does."
Samuel was picked for the Pro Bowl for the second straight year even though his interceptions are down from two seasons ago, when he had 10, and last season, when he had six. He has 24 pass breakups.
"I think I'm playing pretty decent football even though I don't have 10 interceptions like I've had previously," he said. "I think I'm playing as good as any of the corners in the NFL. I'm getting my hands on the ball and that's what they pay me to do, make plays. They've given me leeway to play my style."
The Eagles have had at least two Pro Bowl selections during each of Andy Reid's 10 seasons as head coach. Defensive end Trent Cole made the Pro Bowl last season as a substitute. Cole had 121/2 sacks last season; he has eight with two games to go this season.
Extra points. Receiver Hank Baskett suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament against the Browns. Reid indicated there's a chance he might not be available for Sunday's game at Washington. Baskett had already hurt his knee when he went nearly 100 yards to run down Cleveland's Brandon McDonald after the cornerback made an interception. Baskett's hustle saved a TD. . . . Other Eagles who came out of the game banged up were: WR Kevin Curtis (calf strain), Dawkins (back spasms), and G Todd Herremans (sprained anterior cruciate ligament). . . . Asked whether he'll call Minnesota coach Brad Childress to help him game-plan for Atlanta, Reid said, "I talk to him every week, so I'm sure we'll talk, but I don't think he needs help." Childress is Reid's former offensive coordinator. The Eagles are a half game behind Atlanta in the chase for a wild-card spot in the playoffs.