ANDY REID LOVES to block. Ask him about his emotions. Ask him about games in the future, about other teams and players, about a juicy situation. Ask him to compare himself to someone, or someone to someone, or opinionate on the NFL.
Here's what you are likely to get:
"I'm not going to go there.''
But he let his guard down just a bit yesterday when Brian Dawkins was brought up, and by the end of his day-after news conference, it seemed clear that he wished he had not.
"To say I don't miss him on a daily basis, I used to enjoy seeing him and being around him,'' Reid said. "He brought a lot of energy. I have nothing but good things to say about him or 'Buck.' Those were two of my favorite guys and they're doing a heck of a job for Denver now."
Denver, of course, is Sunday's Eagles opponent. The return of Dawkins, and running back Correll Buckhalter, is a matchup circled in red ink by every faithful Eagles fan after one of the most popular Eagles ever flew off to Colorado for a guaranteed $7.2 million rather than accept an offer of about $3 million from the Birds.
Reactions were swift and severe when a man long considered to be the Eagles' heart signed with the Broncos last February. Fans were outraged. Team president Joe Banner launched an extended propaganda blitz, spending some real quality time with some of the area's lighter-hitting media types.
Both the reaction and the spin were relentless for weeks after. And when the Eagles stumbled and lost winnable games early in the season, and the Broncos unexpectedly ran off six straight victories to start the season - well, Marilyn Monroe may not have been missed this much.
Through it all, Reid blocked well, said all the right things, kept his emotions - and questions about them - in check. Yesterday, a day after a playoff-clinching win, Reid dropped his guard, if just a bit, when asked about what is likely to be a memorable Sunday at the Linc.
"I think it will be neat for him to come back here,'' Reid said. "I think the crowd will be great for him and all of that . . . I always say that when you are a kid and you get into a fight with your brother, for about a second there it's about the most vicious fight you've ever been in. And then you love each other up afterwards.
"That's what this will be. This will be a dogfight out there and then there will be respect afterwards.''
Respect, yes, for sure. Regrets? Dawkins said he would have stayed for less than the $9 million over two seasons Denver guaranteed. It's a number the cap-conscious Eagles easily could have afforded. With Sean Jones and Macho Harris jockeying for one safety spot this season, it's fair to say he would have made them stronger, maybe even thwarted some of those early growing pains.
But the Eagles are 10-4 with two games to play. The Broncos, after winning their first six, are 8-6 after losing to the Oakland Raiders Sunday. Dawkins has played through a series of nagging hurts, starting with a broken hand in the preseason.
Last week, a Denver Post columnist asserted that Dawkins was the undisputed most valuable player of the Broncos' season.
"That type of leadership and passion and intensity at any position, I think it inspires other guys to play like he does,'' Denver's first-year head coach, Josh McDaniels, said of Dawkins. "I think other players see how important it is to him. And that's what I think it is. It's a demonstration of how much he cares.''
The bottom line, though, is that the Broncos have bellied up over roughly the same time period as the Eagles have found their wings. Bringing Jeremiah Trotter back after the bye week might have something to do with it, but the Eagles are 5-0 since another leader, Brian Westbrook, last played.
After once again describing second-year wideout DeSean Jackson as a kid on a playground, Reid expounded on a theme he introduced after Sunday's victory: that the kids have made the old folks play better.
"I believe that they bring some energy to the football team," he said. "The thing I mentioned [Sunday] was that it might not always be right, the things that they're doing on the field, but it's a hundred miles per hour. They're bright-eyed every day and ready for practice. Really, it's the first- and second-year guys that have that energy."
So, no regrets?
"I'm not into all of that,'' he said, sensing controversy. "That's part of this business. It's been that way since professional sports were created. That's how things go. It's part of the business."
A block then. Before any real damage. The coach misses his old heart, has found a new sense of fun with the new kids. He's chest-bumping after touchdowns, even.
The old heart, meanwhile, has an old, familiar role with a new team, facing yet another must-win game in the place he played so many other must-win games.
Should be a helluva Sunday.
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