Saying that "there's always going to be pain" about his end with the Eagles, Brian Dawkins, on the day of his retirement, said that the team's efforts to recognize his contributions to the organization have erased some of the bitter feelings leftover from their divorce three years ago.
And yet, Dawkins, during a confernce call with Philadelphia-area reporters on Monday, said that he had not yet made a decision on whether he would retire as an Eagles or as a Denver Bronco.
"I don't know if I can give you a reason why," Dawkins said. "It just is."
The Eagles have extended an open invitation to Dawkins to sign a one-day contract and end his career as he began it, a team source told The Inquirer. Dawkins has agreed to return to the team's facility on Saturday and meet with the media on noon.
The Eagles have already announced that Dawkins will be honored during the Sept. 30 prime time game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
But Dawkins, who orginally said that he "didn't want to dive back" into the past, made it rather clear that he will never forget how his 13-year run in Philadelphia ended when he was a free agent following the 2008 season and the Eagles offered what he thought was a low-ball deal. He ended up signing a five-year, $17 million contract with the Broncos and played three of those years.
"Those things happen. There's nothing with can do about those things now. You can really can't," Dawkins said. "You can learn from your mistakes of the past and hope you don't make the same mistakes in the future.
"And you forgive and you forget or you forgive and you still remember and it does not hurt as bad as it did at the time because you're in the that moment. There's always going to be pain. There's always going to be feelings there. It is. It just is."
Dawkins, though, one of the most beloved athletes Philadelphia has ever embraced, made it clear that he was participating in the Eagles' plans because he wanted to show the fans how much he appreciated their support.
"At the same time, I understand that that community, the fans of Philadelphia, and my teammates, meant so much to me," Dawkins said. "It means so much to me and I would never allow something that happened to me years back to prevent me from allowing all to celebrate what they helped me accomplish, which is play in the league for 16 years."
Dawkins announced his retirement today on Twitter. He said the Eagles had let him know for some time that they wanted to do something in his honor at the time of his retirement. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said today that Dawkins was his favorite Eagle.
He wasn't the only one.
"My legacy ... I just wanted to be one fans, teammates, coaches or whoever I had a chance to play with or play for or in front of, [say], 'That he gave everything he had to the last drop," Dawkins said. "Whether it be on game day, or in preparation or in the media, or if someone needed help off the field."
A neck injury shortened Dawkins' 2011 season and it was believed the injury would end his career. But the 38-year old said he was 100 percent recovered and that he could play next season if he wanted.
"I can't say my desire is not where it used to be, or anything to that nature," Dawkins said. "It's just the fact of me having peace if I stepped away from the game knowing that I can play the game another year. That may sound crazy."
He says he plans on coaching his son's high school football team, but that he had no plans to coach in the NFL at least until his children have grown.
As for his best moment as an Eagle, Dawkins said the 2004 NFC championship win over the Falcons stood out. He recalled when defensive coordinator Jim Johnson embraced him following the win that finally sent that team to the Super Bowl.
"To see the joy and the tears in his eyes and the way he grabbed me and he said, 'Dawk, we did it. We did it,'" Dawkins said. "I'll never forget that."
Dawkins place in Eagles history has been cemented, but some are already arguing whether he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"That would be awesome," Dawkins said.