Brian Dawkins acknowledged that some "scabs" remained from his emotional departure a little more than nine months ago.

The former Eagles safety just had no intention of scratching them open a few days before his scheduled return to Lincoln Financial Field with the Denver Broncos.

"It was an emotional thing, but I'm not going to hash this out, pick on scabs and all that stuff," the seven-time Pro Bowler said yesterday during a 10-minute conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "It took me a little bit [to get over it]. The Broncos have welcomed me with open arms."

Dawkins, 36, knows he'll be welcomed with open arms and probably a long and loud standing ovation Sunday at the Linc even though he'll be announced as a member of the visiting team's defense, a fact revealed by Denver coach Josh McDaniels.

It should be a memorable scene that has a chance to bring the world's most demonstrative football player to tears.

Watching a Dawkins entrance was always among the most entertaining pregame activities during his career in Philadelphia, but he said he wasn't sure how he'd react before his first game against the team that employed him for 13 years.

"I have no idea," he said. "I am who I am. You guys know that . . . hopefully by now. But whatever I feel like at that time is what I'm going to do."

Whatever animosity remains for Dawkins, he refused to get into it as the 8-6 Broncos prepared for a must-win game against the Eagles.

"It is what it is at this point," he said. "None of that stuff is going to fix or better anything. I'm a Denver Bronco, and everything happens for a reason.

"I came out here for a reason, and this is the Lord's will, for me to be out there to do what I can with this organization and this group of guys, and that's what I'm trying to do. Good things, good memories, is what I'm going to choose to take and have from Philadelphia."

Dawkins said he anticipated a playoff atmosphere in the regular season's penultimate game.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "Before this date even came, I thought that this would be a game that would be important for both teams, and it is.

"Obviously, it's a lot more important for us than it is for the Eagles, but it's important for those guys, also. They want to win. I know the mentality around there about this time of the year - playing your best football and pushing forward and trying to increase their standing."

Dawkins' return is the hot topic of conversation at the NovaCare Complex this week, and quarterback Donovan McNabb said it wasn't easy for him to see his former teammate leave the Eagles' nest last winter.

"I was a little confused," McNabb said. "But being here 10 years, nothing ever shocks me. A guy who has done so much . . . you would think you would want him here . . . to retire here."

Dawkins, in his 14th NFL season, seems comfortable with his new team and proud of the Broncos' accomplishments. Denver enters Sunday's game ranked third in the NFL in yards allowed and sixth in points allowed. A season ago, the team was 29th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed.

"It has been great," Dawkins said. "A lot of folks didn't expect us to do anything this year. We've been able to jell fast and put up a good season thus far. We still have some things yet to do, obviously."

"I feel very happy about the progress," he said. "I wish we could have won and played better ball and not made so many mental mistakes, but that's one of those things that happen when you have a group that's trying to jell."

Dawkins said he remained close with a number of Eagles players, a list topped by fellow safety Quintin Mikell.

"I'm always on the phone with different guys, talking from week to week and checking on them," Dawkins said. "I'm making sure they're healthy, making sure things are all right with them.

"Just because you move on does not mean you leave all your family behind. I'm constantly talking with Quintin Mikell and [Brian] Westbrook and Sheldon [Brown] from time to time, and [McNabb]."

Mikell said that when the schedule came out in the spring, this was a game he looked for. He has often credited Dawkins for mentoring him.

"You circle that kind of game," Mikell said. "I've been looking forward to it all year. I know it's going to be crazy out there, but I'm excited. It's a chance for him to see what I've been able to do and what he's helped build here with me.

"It's almost like when your big brother goes away to college and he comes back. All those years when you were losing to him in basketball, you kind of show him, 'Look what I can do.' "

One thing Mikell has apparently learned from Dawkins is that once the game begins, the hype is meaningless.

"The bottom line is, whoever is across from you, they're going to try to kick your butt and I'm going to try to kick their butt," Mikell said.