Former Eagles legend Brian Dawkins announces retirement
Despite the open invitation, Brian Dawkins said he had not yet decided whether he would retire as an Eagle.
It was almost as if he were saying to the Eagles: "You had your chance."
Yet Dawkins, 38, spoke with Philadelphia-area reporters during a conference call organized by the team and agreed to travel to the NovaCare Complex for a Saturday news conference, which showed that the wounds were healing.
Dawkins, who announced his retirement from football earlier Monday, said there was "always going to be pain" over the end of his 13-year run with the Eagles when he departed for Denver via free agency three years ago.
"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 moment," Dawkins said. "There's always going to be pain. There's always going to be feelings there."
The question of whether Dawkins will or will not sign a one-day contract with the Eagles before he puts a bow on his illustrious career - and team sources believe that he will - slightly overshadowed the obligatory celebration of the veteran safety's accomplishments.
Dawkins' retirement was expected by many, even though he said that his injured neck was 100 percent healthy and that he could play another season. The only other uncertainty, aside from whether he will retire as an Eagle or a Bronco, is whether he is bound for the Hall of Fame.
"I have no doubt we'll be celebrating his induction," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie echoed Reid's sentiment, as did Broncos vice president John Elway and many others. Dawkins was one of the three best safeties of his era, with Baltimore's Ed Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu.
He earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl and was voted to the all-pro team five times during his 16 seasons. There aren't many safeties in Canton, Ohio, and Reed and Polamalu have Super Bowl rings, but Dawkins was as respected by the media as any player in the NFL.
"I didn't come into the league saying that I wanted to be a Hall of Famer," Dawkins said. "It was something that you see other people doing, and it would be nice."
In five years, he will be eligible. But Dawkins' place in Eagles history has been cemented. The team will honor No. 20 - his uniform number will be retired at some point - on Sept. 30 at Lincoln Financial Field when the Birds host the New York Giants in prime time.
"I've always said that he's my favorite player that I've ever had," Lurie said.
Many have wondered, of course, why the Eagles parted with one of the most popular players in their history. They believed they had offered a significant contract. He thought it was too low, a case of too-little-too-late, and he signed a five-year, $17 million deal with Denver instead.
Many fans wanted him to stay.
"I think we all would have loved to have seen that," Lurie said. "We have remained close ever since, and I just wanted what was best for Brian at all points, and he got a couple of extra years in Denver."
Dawkins played three years with the Broncos, reaching the Pro Bowl twice. He wasn't the same player, the "Weapon X" action figure who thrilled fans with his bloodthirsty play, but the Eagles haven't been the same either without their heart and soul.
"I just wanted . . . fans, teammates, coaches, or whoever I had a chance to play with or play for or in front of [to say] that 'he gave everything he had to the last drop,' " Dawkins said.
Dawkins said he will not try to squeeze out another drop. He said he is not done with football, though. He plans to help coach his son's high school team in Denver. And he didn't rule out coaching in the NFL, although he said he wouldn't consider the idea until his children are grown.
"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."
There will be plenty of time to reflect on his unprecedented 13 seasons here, but Dawkins did say that the 2004 NFC championship victory stood out; that season, the Reid-era Eagles finally got over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
He recalled when his mentor, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, embraced him after the win.
"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."
Eagles fans will never forget Dawkins.
"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 prevent me from allowing all to celebrate what they helped me accomplish, which is play in the league for 16 years."