Dawkins makes emotional return vs. Eagles
Brian Dawkins was so worried about sapping his energy and
emotions early that he couldn’t even take the field with the rest
of the Denver Broncos for pregame warmups.
So Dawkins patiently waited in the locker room, a thunderous
stadium flooded with No. 20 jerseys waiting his arrival.
He didn’t disappoint, acting more like an Olympic gymnast than
Pro Bowl safety in his first game back at Philadelphia.
Dawkins was introduced last on Sunday when the Broncos defensive
starters were announced. He dropped to one knee, pointed to the sky
and flexed. Dawkins then somersaulted, and turned a reverse
somersault into a handstand. Dawkins nearly took out a cameraman as
he charged through the line and chest-bumped his teammates.
“It’s just real, real nerve-racking,” Dawkins said. “I’ve
been in a lot of big games before. I was just trying to control my
emotions. It was real tough for this game, mainly because we needed
this game so bad.”
Dawkins has played better games at the Linc than in Denver’s
30-27 loss against the Eagles that hindered the Broncos’ playoff
chances. The Eagles inched closer to an NFC East title in a game
that doubled as Dawkins’ Appreciation Night.
Some fans wore his Broncos or Clemson jersey with Eagles hats
and jackets. Others just pulled the ol’ Eagles No. 20 jerseys out
of the closet in what could be the final time they’ll get to honor
one of the franchise’s all-time greats.
The 36-year-old Dawkins was the face of the Eagles and one of
their most inspirational players over a 13-year career. He wanted
to return to Philadelphia, but couldn’t turn down a better offer
from the Broncos.
He insisted his only thoughts were about helping the Broncos win
and getting engulfed in nostalgia.
“Once it was snapped, it was about playing football,” Dawkins
But it wasn’t easy to forget all the memories and friendships
forged over an Eagles career that included multiple trips to the
NFC title game and a Super Bowl appearance. Some of his former
teammates, such as safety Sheldon Brown, pointed toward Dawkins
during the game out of gratitude and respect.
“Those are the types of things I expected from some of the guys
over there,” Dawkins said. “We went to battles, we went to war
for many, many years. We built something.”
Brown wasn’t surprised Dawkins skipped warmups. He’d seen up
close Dawkins silently prepare in the locker room before big games
because he was worried about wasting all his pent-up
Brown, who keeps in touch with Dawkins and watches Broncos
games, joked that Dawkins “would have to come out and have an IV”
if he tried to play after warmups.
Dawkins wasted little time taking aim on his former teammates.
He dragged down running back Brian Westbrook from behind with a
grab at the ankles.
He appeared to blame himself for missed coverage on a 47-yard TD
pass from Donovan McNabb to Brent Celek. Dawkins pointed at his
head, then chest after the score that seemed to indicate he knew he
blew the play.
His illegal contact penalty on Philadelphia’s first possession
nearly proved costly. The play wiped out a sack that would have
forced a punt, but the Eagles eventually turned the ball over.
“Too many mistakes,” Dawkins said. “Early one, we weren’t
making the mistakes we’re making. It seems like we’re going through
growing pains at the wrong time of the year.”
It almost seemed like a scene right out of another playoff
celebration after the game. Dawkins hugged McNabb and Westbrook,
kneeled in the prayer circle, then soaked in the cheers from the
fans who stuck around to show him some love one more time.
He blew kisses to the crowd, pumped his fists, and waved to the
fans who haven’t stopped adoring him even though he plays for
“We did some things together that I’ll remember forever,”
So will those hardened Philly fans turned softies when Dawkins
came back to say hello.