Was out in a sporting goods store this morning. There were two racks of Eagles jerseys right by the front door. They were Brian Dawkins jerseys, a couple of dozen of them. The adult sizes were marked down from $80 to just under $40. The kid sizes were marked down from $60 to just under $30. "Clearance" is what the sign on the top of the racks said.
Dawkins dressed at one end of the Eagles' locker room at the NovaCare Complex. Tra Thomas dressed on the same side but at the exact opposite end. Dawkins and Thomas were the last two remnants of the Ray Rhodes era of Eagles football. Now both are gone -- Dawkins to Denver (accompanied by outrage), Thomas now to Jacksonville (greeted with a shrug).
Opposite ends. Somehow, that fits. Dawkins and Thomas were exemplars of the positions they played. Offensive linemen are all about calm -- about technique and working together and covering for each other, about the collective over the individual. That was Tra. Safeties are the NFL's natural born killers -- about emotion and raw terror, about the launching like a missile and the punishment that missile can deliver. That was Dawk.
Thomas was a fine guy to talk to, if you could catch him first. Most offensive linemen are genetically opposed to self-promotion, and Tra was like that. But he was a good player here for a very long time, and he knew it. He is the kind of player who knew his strength was pass blocking and knew his weakness was run blocking and could be very analytical about the whole thing. One point: the run blocking had become very weak. Another point: in a passing world, Tra figured he could play until his body quit on him, and he didn't feel that was close to happening yet.
Opposite ends. Dawkins did midweek and post-game press conferences all season, and did that outrageous pre-game routine coming out of the tunnel, and drew attention to himself, and wed himself to the community. Thomas never did the podium and seemed happiest when he could pull a knit hat down low over his eyes and escape while reporters weren't watching.
There is no outrage today, then, nor should there be. In many ways, it was time -- especially given how badly this team ran the ball last year. What the Eagles have planned to replace Thomas is unknown right now -- and it is obviously a key to next season, more important than the identity of Dawkins' successor, to be honest.
There is a dignity about both Thomas and Dawkins -- that is what they shared here. The rest was so different, though. It's funny that they were the last two.