Denver coach Josh McDaniels said that the Broncos defense will be introduced prior to this Sunday's game at the Linc. Why is that important? Because Brian Dawkins is making his return to Philadelphia and the introduction will allow the city its chance to honor the former Eagles safety.
Normally, the visiting team enters the field as one without individual introductions, but it is up to the visiting coach to decide if he would like to have one unit introduced. McDaniels, during a conference call today said that he did, and apparently the Eagles were willing to grant him that luxury.
Dawkins, meanwhile, spoke with the Philadelphia media today about his anticipated return. He admitted to the occasional thought about what kind of reception the Eagles' fans will give him.
"Obviously it has crossed my mind what’s it going to be like," he said. "Whatever it is, I know they’ve appreciated me just like I’ve appreciated them over the years, so I don’t expect anything crazy."
Dawkins was asked if he would skip pre-game warm ups on the field to avoid getting over-emotional.
"I don’t know," he said. "Nothing is going to be preplanned. Whatever I’m feeling. If that be the case – overhyped, or even more hyped than usual – maybe I’ll chill out, and think about it."
When Dawkins left in the off-season there was some acrimony between he and the Eagles. He was asked if he has gotten over the bitterness.
"It was an emotional thing, but I’m not going to hash this out, pick on scabs and all that stuff," Dawkins said. "It took me a little bit. The Broncos have welcomed me with open arms. Like I said earlier, I just remember all the good times in Philadelphia."
Dawkins has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season for the 8-6 Broncos. He's recorded 100 tackles and instantly became one of the team's leaders. He was asked if he felt vindicated.
"That’s for everybody else to write about and talk about," Dawkins said. "All I know is, what are my teammates saying about me in this locker room? That’s all that matters. What are my coaches depending on me to do, or what are my teammates here in Denver, what do they think about me, or what do they anticipate, or what do they depend on me to do game in and game out, and do I do that for them?"
Dawkins said that he still follows the Eagles closely and that he remains in touch with safety Quintin Mikell, running back Brian Westbrook, cornerback Sheldon Brown and quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"I’m always on the phone with different guys, talking from week to week and checking on them, making sure they’re healthy, making sure things are all right with them," he said. "Just because you move on does not mean you leave all your family behind.”
Still, he has to play against some family members and Dawkins is, after all, the enemy come Sunday.
"Before this date even came, I thought that this would be a game that would be important for both teams, and it is," he said. "Obviously it’s lot more important for us than it is for the Eagles, but it’s important for those guys also. They want to win. I know the mentality around there about this time of the year – playing your best football and pushing forward and trying to increase their standing."
Ultimately, Dawkins will remember the bond he forged with a fanbase that is traditionally hard on its superstars.
"That was kind of expected as far as outpour of emotion," Dawkins said about the reaction from the city when he left for Denever. "Like I said, we know that I connected with the fan base of Philadelphia like I never thought that I would be able to. I had heard so much about them going there, but when I played for so many years the way I played the game, we connected in a special way. To know they were going to feel that way was kind of expected. But at the end of the day I know they’re Philadelphia fans and they’re going to back their team. It doesn’t surprise me that their games are still being sold out and the fan base is as electric as its always been."