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Dawkins finalist for man-of-year award

Brian Dawkins is a seven-time Pro Bowler and has been voted to four NFL all-pro teams, but if he wins the two prizes in front of him right now, he would no doubt consider this the greatest season of his career.

Brian Dawkins

is a seven-time Pro Bowler and has been voted to four NFL all-pro teams, but if he wins the two prizes in front of him right now, he would no doubt consider this the greatest season of his career.

The primary focus of the Eagles' safety and his teammates is winning Sunday's NFC championship game and earning a second trip to the Super Bowl in five years. Once there, Dawkins also could be presented with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which is given annually at the Super Bowl to a player who has starred on the field while also contributing to community projects.

The NFL announced yesterday that Dawkins is a finalist for the award along with Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota center Matt Birk.

"That's huge," Dawkins said of the award after practice. "Take a look at the list of guys who have won that award, and you're going to see some very upstanding and great character people. They are all very caring individuals, and the guy who the award is named after is the embodiment of that. It would be a great honor that I would really cherish if I'm able to win that."

Dawkins, 35, donated $10,000 to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia during the off-season after the premature births of his twin daughters a year earlier.

"Right now, all the focus is on trying to get to [the Super Bowl]," Dawkins said. "But there have been a lot of blessings bestowed upon this team and me personally, and I'm just thankful for them all."

Jason Taylor, then of the Miami Dolphins, won the award last year. Harold Carmichael in 1980 and Troy Vincent in 2002 are the only Eagles to have won the award.

The hot assistant

Given the rise of the Eagles' defense this season as well as

Steve Spagnuolo's

popularity as the New York Giants defensive coordinator, it's only natural that another of

Jim Johnson's

understudies will eventually leave the team for bigger and better things.

The hot name right now is Sean McDermott, the Eagles' 34-year-old secondary coach. His name was mentioned earlier this week as a possible candidate to be defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, and there were also rumblings that the New Orleans Saints had interest before hiring Gregg Williams.

"You never know if a guy is ready, but he is a bright young coach who has done a great job for us," Johnson said before practice. "He has been with me for seven or eight years, and he is like Spags in that he really works at the game. His name has been out there and that's good for him."

Australia rules

Both punters in the NFC championship game are Australian, and the Eagles'

Sav Rocca

hopes he will become the first citizen of his country to play in a Super Bowl.

But if he doesn't, Rocca said he will cheer on the Cardinals' Ben Graham, whom he spoke to earlier this week.

"It's good to know that one of us is going to be playing in the Super Bowl," he said. "We're going to be happy for the guy that's playing. Obviously, the guy that's not going to be playing is going to be a little bit disappointed."

Rocca played 15 seasons of Australian Rules Football before joining the Eagles in 2007. Graham spent 12 years playing in Australia, with his team facing Rocca's at least once a season, and punted for three-plus seasons with the New York Jets before being waived. He signed with the Cardinals as a free agent on Dec. 1.

"I'm going to be honored if it's me," Rocca said, "but a championship is more important to me than being the first Australian to do it."

Extra points

Running back

Brian Westbrook

(left knee swelling) and offensive tackle

Jon Runyan

(sprained right knee) did not practice for the second straight day, but both remain on course to play Sunday against the Cardinals. Guard

Shawn Andrews

(back) was the only player limited at practice. . . . Former Eagles running back

Duce Staley

will serve as the team's honorary captain for Sunday's game. . . . The Eagles will hold their final practice in Philadelphia this morning, then fly to Phoenix this afternoon.

- Bob Brookover
and Joe Juliano

Published