After signing his previous contract a few years ago, Brian Dawkins said he couldn’t imagine wearing any uniform other than the one he pulled on for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He said he’d always be an Eagle.
Then why will Dawkins be masquerading as a Denver Bronco this year?
Because he just got a better deal – a $17 million free agent contract – to play for the Broncos.
That’s just the latest example of the lack of loyalty in Philadelphia sports.
Don’t be so quick to fault the players for it, either, because blame runs both ways in these breakups.
Pat Burrell’s a perfect example.
The former Phillies slugger belted one of the biggest hits in team history with a ninth-inning double that set up the run that clinched the second World Series title in Philadelphia history. This came after Burrell gave the Phillies an average of 30 homers and 95 RBI over the last seven seasons.
Evidently, that wasn’t enough to keep the team’s respect.
When Burrell’s contract ran out, the Phillies didn’t even bother to offer him another one. Burrell wound up signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays during the offseason.
He wasn’t as revered as Allen Iverson.
But the former Philadelphia 76ers star was just as mercurial as he was iconic. He blew off almost as many practices and caused his coaches nearly as many headaches as the number of cheers he elicited while playing his heart out on game nights.
Even while insisting his heart remained with the Sixers, Iverson was sent to Denver in a 2006 trade, after earning a league MVP award and willing the 76ers into the 2001 NBA finals.
That move stunned Philadelphia fans.
The departure Saturday of Dawkins numbed them with shock.
He spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the Eagles as one of the most passionate, talented and toughest players the franchise has ever known.
“He gave this city 13 years of emotional, energetic football,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said.
Philadelphia fans appreciated that effort every step of the way. In a city known for hammering its heroes with words of hurt, Dawkins was never booed and rarely criticized.
His impact was obvious far beyond the crushing tackles he made as a perennial Pro Bowl safety.
The Eagles defense became incredibly aggressive because it was built around Dawkins, whose flexibility sparked a blitz package that overwhelmed most offenses. His knack for creating turnovers at critical times was uncanny. And even as his talent began eroding at the age of 35 this season, his leadership and desire carried the Eagles to their fifth NFC championship game in nine years.
You don’t get guys like that in the draft or in free agency. They come along only once in a lifetime.
Which is why Eagles fans are now mourning Dawkins’ defection.
They can’t understand why their team, which is $48 million under the salary cap, couldn’t come up with anything better than a one-year offer to keep Dawkins in Philadelphia when the Broncos were wooing him to Denver with a five-year contract that guarantees him $7 million.
Neither can I.
Saying he felt like a true Philadelphian, Dawkins admittedly cried when he signed the Denver deal. They were tears of grief over loyalty lost.
“His legacy as an Eagle will last forever,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said.
Too bad his presence won’t.