Brian Dawkins Talks Brandon Marshall, Philadelphia, and His Toughest Challenges on the Gridiron This Past 14 Years

February 26, 2010 – 8:00 am by Michael Bean

The Denver Broncos faded down the stretch in a big way, but if you ask me, their 2009 season was largely still a successful one. I suppose when you start a season 6-0 and fail to make the playoffs, it’s hard to chalk things up as a success, but think about what was expected of Denver heading into last season. It was year one of the post-Mike Shanahan era, their franchise quarterback had been shipped out of town by new head coach Josh McDaniels, their star wide receiver was stirring the pot, and the Broncos defense which wasn’t very good in ’08 was basically working with the same personnel as they had the year before – only in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s unfamiliar system.

Back to the Broncos mid-season struggles. After starting 6-0, the Broncos dropped their next four and looked to be in big trouble. The offense was struggling while the defense – which had been elite to start the year – was beginning to show its vulnerabilities. Prior to their Thanksgiving night game against the New York Giants, veteran free agent acquisition Brian Dawkins called a player’s only meeting. Apparently his teammates got the message. The Broncos looked nothing like the team that hadn’t won in over a month against the Giants. They thumped New York and then won the following week in convincing fashion against the rival Chiefs. From there it was downhill once again, but that two game stretch convinced me the Broncos will again be playoff contenders in 2010.  It also convinced me that Dawkins is one of the truly special leaders in all of the NFL.

Dawkins joined The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio on Thursday to talk about a variety of subjects, including what it was like not being retained by Philadelphia last offseason, what a talented physical specimen Brandon Marshall is, who the toughest guys are that he’s faced off against during his 14 year career, and why Philadelphia fans will always both love their teams and voice their discontent when mistakes are made.

On what it’s like to basically feel like a team doesn’t want you anymore:

“Well it was different from that perspective because I was a free agent, so it was little different than a release. Release is completely different. When you’re getting released, that’s what you’re talking about, that’s saying we appreciate what you did for us, we don’t think you can do it and we’re going to move in another direction. That’s a complete different ball of wax to me. For me, I was a free agent, we tried to work something out and didn’t get it done. And Denver came out and blew me away and accepted me for who I am with the age that I am, and they thought I could do what I did last year. So it was a completely different ball of wax.”

On teammate Brandon Marshall and his freakish athleticism:

“He’s a phenomenal athlete. To have the size that he has, the speed that he has…sometimes when you see a guy in his uniform, when fans see a guy on the football field, they say he looks big in his pads. No. Brandon looks big, period. Because he is. He’s a big dude, and off the field he’s still a big dude. But when he attacks the football, he goes and gets it. He makes catches in practice – we’re all oohing and ahhing at him during practice at some of the catches he makes. We call him the beast and he is that. He is a beast.”

On how long he’s been in the NFL:

“This will be 15 coming up.”

On who some of the absolute toughest guys he’s ever faced in his long career, including guys on his team that he had to face in practice:

“First of all, on my team, messing around with Westbrook in practice, trying to cover him in 7-on-7 drills and stuff – one of the hardest dudes to cover. Even when he lined up at receiver he was one of those guys that was very tough to cover. Over the years, trying to cover Terrell..T.O. Coming off the line of scrimmage, he used that strength coming off the ball. You may get your hands on him, and sometimes he’ll let you get your hands on him. It’s the same thing with Brandon – he’ll let you get your hands on him, but he’ll use that against you. So he’ll grab you and throw you to the side because the guy is so big. So those two, and then put Brandon in that category of physical guys that’s been tough over the years. A guy from way back in the day – they’ll know when I say it – Barry Sanders. I was able to play against him one time as a rookie, but watching film on him was ridiculous. It was ridiculous. We would sit there and put the film on and we would pause before he got to the first tackler or guy that was trying to tackle him, and we would try to pick out who would actually make the tackle on him. Because it wouldn’t be that first guy. He would always miss him. So we would try to pick to see who would be the guy – it was probably going to be the fourth guy guy. He was a phenomenal, phenomenal talent. It was unbelievable how he was able to escape some tackles.”

After being asked about Donovan McNabb and the tough love he gets from the city of Philadelphia, Dawkins commented on the passionate expectations of Philly fans:

“When they welcome you into their house, they welcome you into their hearts as well – Philadelphia. That’s just the way it is. They gave me the benefit of the doubt probably more than they would another person, another player. But at the same time, if I gave up a play on the field, they’re going to boo me. It’s going to happen. I don’t care who you are, everybody gets booed at one time in Philadelphia. Here’s a funny story, you’re talking about dogs playing catch with a frisbee on the field at halftime, and the dog dropped the frisbee. They’re going to boo him. We’re talking a dog dropping a frisbee. That’s the way they feel – the dog should have caught the frisbee.”

Listen here to Dawkins with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio

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