Veteran safety Brian Dawkins retiring from NFL

Brian Dawkins says his head told him to retire, not his


The veteran safety called Denver Broncos coach John Fox on

Monday morning to tell him that after plenty of prayer and

reflection, he’d decided that 16 seasons in the NFL was enough.

Then, Dawkins announced his retirement on Twitter, where he

quickly began trending as fans worldwide expressed their admiration

for the mild-mannered family man who transformed himself into a

ferocious football player on Sundays.

Well-known by his alter-ego ”Wolverine,” and for his

passionate, energetic play for 13 years in Philadelphia and three

in Denver, Dawkins was one of the greatest to ever play his

position, and nobody played safety in the NFL longer than he


Dawkins, 38, said he felt he had another year left in him after

recovering from a serious neck injury that sidelined him for the

stretch run and playoffs last season. But he instead fulfilled one

final wish from his NFL bucket list: walking away from the game he

loves before being betrayed by a battered body or one too many

trips around the sun.

”It’s probably going to sound crazy, but you know the fact that

I could play another year gave me a lot of peace to say that this

is it,” Dawkins said.

Broncos boss John Elway said he wanted Dawkins to play in 2012

but never pressured him to return.

”It’s always tough to take that final step,” Elway said.

”He’ll be missed. He did so many tremendous things for the

Broncos, not only on the field, but his leadership off the field

was something that we’ll always be grateful for.”

Dawkins said the offseason additions of quarterback Peyton

Manning and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio forced him to pray a

little longer on his future.

He insisted his neck didn’t enter the equation, though. He said

the nerve had regenerated and he was fine.

”My body feels good. It really does. My neck, that nerve area

is cool, nothing’s wrong with it,” he said. ”My strength is back

where it was and my knees, things don’t ache like they do during

the season when I’m walking up and down the steps.”

Dawkins said he felt great peace over his decision.

Dawkins said he wasn’t sure whether he’d sign a one-day deal

with his old team to ceremoniously retire from the team that

drafted him in the second round out of Clemson in 1996, but one

thing’s for sure: he’s staying in Denver, where he hopes to help

coach high school football in the fall.

”I’ll raise my kids here,” he said. ”This is a beautiful


He also has a soft spot in his heart for Philly, where he plans

to meet with the media on Saturday.

For 13 years, he was the heart and soul of the Eagles’


”The NFL will miss a player as talented, ferocious, and

determined as Brian Dawkins,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. ”He

was one of the most dedicated and hardest working players I have

ever coached. Whether it was on the practice field, the film room

or the weight room, Brian always put in the extra hours it took to

become the star player that he was. And he transferred all of that

and more onto the field on Sundays.”

Dawkins finished his career in Philadelphia in 2008 as the

franchise’s leader in games played (183) and interceptions (34)

while spearheading a defense that made the Eagles perennial

championship contenders.

”Brian Dawkins is one of my all-time favorite players and one

of the best to ever put on an Eagles uniform,” team owner Jeffrey

Lurie said. ”On the field, in many ways, Brian re-invented the

safety position. He had the speed and athleticism to line up

against the game’s best receivers, and was equally effective in the

run game. His love for the game was infectious and he poured his

entire heart and soul into everything he was doing from the moment

he entered the stadium until he left.

”Everyone who ever watched Brian play saw that and it was

impossible not to love that about him.”

The Eagles announced they would honor Dawkins at their Sept. 30

game against the New York Giants, and the Broncos have plans to do

the same at a later date.

Longevity isn’t normally associated with the position where the

hardest hits are both received and delivered – the only other

safeties to log 16 seasons in the pros were Hall of Famer Paul

Krause and Eugene Robinson.

Dawkins was named to several All-Pro teams and the NFL’s

All-Decade team of the 2000s and he made nine Pro Bowls, including

last season as an alternate. Dawkins finished his career with 17

fumble recoveries, 26 sacks, 37 interceptions, 42 forced fumbles

and 98 pass breakups. His 42 forced fumbles are the most ever by a

defensive back in the NFL.

”Brian Dawkins is one of the best to ever play the game, a

future Hall of Famer who changed the way his position is played,”

Fox said. ”In many ways, he helped my job as a coach with his

great leadership and preparation. He brought so much to the table

and was such an enormous asset to our football team.”

As a member of the NFLPA executive committee, Dawkins pushed for

new league rules that limited full contact during camp and also in

the regular season. He credited those changes in the 10-year labor

pact reached last summer with keeping him fresh at the beginning of

what turned out to be his final season, which he played a year

after laboring through sprains to both knees.

What he was really fighting for, he said, was the next

generation of players who will one day walk away from the game in

better shape than he could.

It was one last piece of his long legacy.

”I just hope that people will remember me as someone that went

out and gave everything that he could every week,” Dawkins said.

”Not just the weekend or the day of the game, but every week …

and that my teammates could count on me to be there all of the

time. Not some of the times, not most of the times.”

One tweet in response to Dawkins’ retirement announcement came

from Elway himself, who wrote, ”Congratulations on a Hall of Fame

career, Dawk!!!”

He’ll be eligible for enshrinement in 2017.

”If that’s something that happens, that will be a blessing,”

Dawkins said. ”I never entered into the NFL saying that, you know,

I’m going to be a Hall of Famer. I know some guys do that; I just

wasn’t one of them. I mean, that wasn’t my mindset. I did not enter

the league saying I want to play 16 years. None of these things

were in my mind.”

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