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Dawkins leaves, an era ends

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Today I think about how Reggie White finished his career as Carolina Panther. Brett Favre finished his career as a NY Jet. Emmit Smith finished his career as an Arizona Cardinal. Joe Montana finished with the Chiefs. Franco Harris retired as a Seahawk. Johnny Unitas finished with the Chargers & Joe Namath with the Rams. Jerry Rice ironically ended his career with the Broncos. Art Monk finished as an Eagle and the great Harold Carmichael finished as a Cowboy.

At 36 years of age Brian Dawkins will finish his career as a Denver Bronco. He signed a five year deal, but whether he plays beyond two years remains to be seen. What we do know is that his last game will not be in the uniform he wore on his way to becoming a legend. Hopefully one day we'll get the chance to see Dawkins honored at the Linc and we all be incredibly proud to watch him enter the hall of fame as an Eagle.

As sad as I am today, this is the NFL. It's a business and this nothing new. Like all the examples I gave no one will enjoy watching Dawkins hang on for a year or two with another team but it doesn't change the impact he had here or the esteem with which he's held in this city. The Eagles did what they felt was best for them and Dawkins needed to do what he thought was best for him.

When I think about what impact the loss of Dawkins will have on the team I'm reminded of Troy Vincent, Jeremiah Trotter, Bobby Taylor, Brian Mitchell, Hugh Douglas, Deuce Staley... More often than not, the Eagles have been right when it comes to letting older veterans go. As I search for things to be optimistic about here, that's a pretty decent one.

On the field, Brian Dawkins was still productive last year in the role he played. That role had changed from when he was in his prime. No longer was he being asked to play centerfield and cover deep. When Brian Dawkins made big plays here over the past two years, he did so playing up near the line of scrimmage as a safety/linebacker hybrid. By the end of the year Quintin Demps was more often playing the deeper safety role. The Eagles literally changed their defensive formation to accommodate Dawkins. Now, he still made plays. He was still instrumental in winning several games this year. He was the deserving defensive player of the month in December of last season! The question that the Eagles seemed to face was whether his production in that role over the next two years was going to continue to be worth changing the defense in that way. As much as it pains me to say it's pretty obvious Dawkins is only going to continue to decline as he turns 36 and 37 years old. How much and what is it worth was clearly the issue at hand.

Off the field, Dawkins impact was immeasurable. He was the longest tenured athlete in the city, a fan favorite, he was the team's leader, it's heart and soul. I look at the kind of success the Eagles have had over the past few years. In 2006 and 2008 when they pulled themselves out of the ashes a made good playoff runs long after they'd been written off as done. Those runs had as much to do with the character and leadership of guys like Brian Dawkins as it did with the talent of the team. If things start to go south now, do we have the players in the locker room capable of instilling belief in this team? Who is the guy that's going to say this? I don't know. I can only hope that someone was watching #20 all these years and taking notes.

On a personal note, Brian Dawkins is my favorite football player of all time. I have only asked one Eagle for an autograph in my life, Brian Dawkins. I framed that "Eagles Insider" he signed for me at training camp and proudly display to this day. The first jersey I ever bought and still the one I wear more than any other, is Brian Dawkins' #20. As a guy in my twenties I've quite literally grown up watching Brian Dawkins on the Eagles. Just about every great memory I have of this team happened while he was a part of it. I'm not alone either, so search youtube and watch some of the over 500 tributes people have made to the man.

Right now, I'm going to reflect on a great career and a great man. I wish him the best of luck. I'll finish with my greatest memory, Dawkins' speech after the 2004 NFC Championship game

What are your favorite Dawk moments?