Dawkins could be playing his last game with Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - December 26, 2008 Other players lingered on the field, shook hands and shared laughs with some of the Redskins. Not Dawkins. He takes every loss hard. With the playoffs at stake, it hurt even more.

Philadelphia lost control of its playoff destiny with that 10-3 loss at Washington. No one knew the importance of the game more than Dawkins.

Late in the fourth quarter, after the defense made another stand, he ran over to the offensive players and encouraged them to make some plays. It seemed more like he was pleading, begging Donovan McNabb and crew to find a way to reach the end zone. They didn't, as Reggie Brown got tackled at the 1 on the last play.

The clock is ticking on Dawkins' career. He might not get any more chances to make a Super Bowl run. There's not even a guarantee the seven-time Pro Bowl safety will be back with the Eagles in 2009.

Dawkins is in the final year of a contract and he's 35, so Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys could be his final game in Philadelphia after 13 seasons.

"That stuff will be handled when the season is over with," Dawkins said. "It's my job to go out and do my job. As much as all those other things will be important at some point, the most important thing for me right now is the Dallas Cowboys. I really can't state that any other way. I'm dead serious about it."

Dawkins is certainly headed for the Hall of Fame when he retires, but his immediate future is uncertain. Although he earned his seventh trip to Hawaii this season, Dawkins isn't the player he used to be. Still, he can perform at a high level and is a valuable team leader on and off the field.

"After the first three or four weeks, I think he has had a heck of a season," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "I think he got over those injuries, he's playing well, he's a great leader. It seems like he is playing with a lot of confidence. He is just back to his old self."

Dawkins struggled early this season, particularly in a 41-37 loss at Dallas in Week 2. He allowed a couple big plays - Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had seven catches for 110 yards - and got beat for a short TD catch by Terrell Owens in one-on-one coverage.

He responded to the negative comments about his age and speed with a sensational effort the following game against Pittsburgh. He made several year-end highlight reels with an acrobatic play to sack Ben Roethlisberger and strip him of the ball. Dawkins eluded one blocker, leaped over another and, with his body parallel to the ground, swatted the ball out of Roethlisberger's hand and fell on it to secure a 15-6 victory.

A second-round pick by the Eagles in 1996, Dawkins has reached a few milestones this year. He passed wide receiver Harold Carmichael for most games played in team history and tied Eric Allen and Bill Bradley for most interceptions with 34.

Dawkins missed practice the last two days because of an illness. He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Dallas, but there's no way he'll miss this game.

The Eagles (8-6-1) need a win over Dallas (9-6) and losses by Tampa Bay and Chicago or Minnesota to make the playoffs. The Cowboys would secure a playoff berth with a victory.

"It's tough to swallow regardless, not being in the playoffs," Dawkins said. "My thoughts are positive on moving forward and beating the Dallas Cowboys. That's what I'm thinking about and whatever happens after that, happens."

Dawkins, a quiet and humble person off the field, transforms into an energetic, highly emotional player on game days. He can hardly contain himself when he runs out during pregame introductions and seems like he's having an out-of-body experience.

Considering the possibilities about his future, Dawkins surely will be fired up more than usual Sunday.

"With everything that needs to happen in this game, everything that is in my power, I will do what I can," he said.

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