It came as no surprise on Monday that Dawkins announced his intentions to retire. He and the Eagles had been in conversations for weeks about his plans, and about the team's plans, to properly honor a player who transcended the seven Pro Bowls and the five All-Pro teams to which he was named.
In announcing his retirement just a few months after playing in the Pro Bowl game as a member of the Denver Broncos, Dawkins left the game on his terms, something few players are able to do. He can walk away from the game in good health, recognized as one of the game-changing players of his generation.
Dawkins will return to Philadelphia and meet the media on Saturday at the NovaCare Complex and he's going to be honored properly during the season -- when the Eagles play NFC East-rival New York on September 30 at Lincoln Financial Field. There are many other pieces to the plan that will be divulged in time, when the moment is right.
Dawkins, of course, made the moment right so many times in his 13 seasons here. He is one of a handful of players in team history that changed the game, changed the position he played and who will go down forever as an Eagle. Dawkins was the key to Jim Johnson's defense through the years. His ability to move around in Johnson's scheme allowed the defensive genius to improvise his blitzes, to create pressure packages and to be as aggressive as possible without giving up the big play on the back end.
There have been few athletes in Philadelphia who have ever reached the fans as Dawkins did. He allowed his intensity to spill over on game days to the point where he referred to himself as the "Idiot Man." The Dawkins who was so psyched up on game days wasn't the same quiet, gentle, reserved man the other six days of the week.
It was always inspiring to see Dawkins on game day. From the moment he arrived at the stadium, he was crazed. His end-zone antics and running-through-the-tunnel moments live on forever. His big plays defined a defense that lived for them. Dawkins is the best safety to ever play in an Eagles uniform and his accomplishments -- the Pro Bowls, the All-Pro teams, the game-changing plays -- are burned in our minds.
That Dawkins played his final three NFL seasons in NFL is unfortunate, a product of the business side of the game. There is no need to re-hash what happened, but here is the brief overview: The Eagles made Dawkins an offer they felt was strong for his fourth contract here and he instead accepted a deal with Denver that made him the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL.
Time to move on from that. The challenge from the Eagles' side has been replacing Dawkins and his production and his place in the locker room. That is ongoing.
What we're here to do this week, and throughout the season, is to celebrate Dawkins' time as an Eagle. He meant a lot to so many who looked at him as an inspiration of how to approach the game of life. You go at it with all you have, with maximum intensity and focus and you enjoy every minute of the challenge.
He is likely the next Eagle to get into the Pro Football of Fame, but the Hall has not been kind to the safety position. There are seven true safeties in the Hall of Fame, and only Ronnie Lott has played since the 1960s. With Dawkins and Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed dominating this most recent decade in the NFL, that has to change.
Dawkins deserves to go, no question about it. He dominated games. He made offenses go away from him. He was a take-the-game-over player as the guy lined up farthest away from the football.
That's what Dawkins did. He owned the game. And on this day, we step back from the draft and remember Dawkins' time in Philadelphia and his place as one of the greatest to ever play here. We are blessed to have enjoyed his Eagles career, one that is going to live long into the future now that his playing days in the NFL are over.