DB Dawkins picked as one of Broncos’ team captains
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – Brian Dawkins’ favorite superhero is Wolverine, the member of the X-Men known for his stamina, agility, superior athleticism and high pain threshold.
You can see why after the 35-year-old safety didn’t take long to win over teammates and become a leader for the Denver Broncos. All they have to do is watch him play.
He brings a menacing presence to a Denver defense that has sorely lacked one since linebacker Al Wilson’s retirement nearly three years ago.
“He’ll talk the talk, and he’ll walk the walk,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “I don’t like guys who come in and like to talk a lot and don’t do everything. He’s the opposite of that.”
A year ago, Bailey complained that his nasty attitude wasn’t rubbing off on his defensive teammates.
Dawkins has been the answer to Bailey’s pleas. Now, the Pro Bowl corner has the perfect partner to help him infuse a tenacious disposition.
Dawkins provides a giant dose of toughness and leadership, precisely why the Broncos courted the 14-year veteran to shore up a defense that’s been dismal the last two years.
“He makes me want to meet his level of play,” defensive back Andre’ Goodman said. “If this guy can play like this at his age, why wouldn’t you want to follow him?”
Dawkins has become a collector of all things Wolverine, photos and action figures taking up an entire locker stall next to his.
And just like the superhero, Dawkins is an intimidating figure.
“He’s been better than I ever expected. He’s a true leader,” Bailey said.
That’s why the team recently anointed him captain, along with Casey Wiegmann, Kyle Orton, Daniel Graham, Wesley Woodyard, Mario Haggan and Bailey.
Dawkins’ leadership skills are renown. In Philadelphia, he was the heart and soul of the defense. The Broncos are now hoping that he’s the bedrock – even at his age – of their rebuilding efforts as they digest defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s 3-4 scheme.
His fiery attitude has quickly rubbed off – just like Bailey had hoped. If practice loses some of its zest, Dawkins tries to elevate the tempo.
“Every practice is a game day for him,” Goodman said.
Game days are special. Game days are when he becomes even more animated, transforming from a mild-mannered family man into a crazed ball of energy when he walks through the tunnel.
Dawkins’ pre-game rants fire up a team, his bone-jarring hits during a contest inspire a squad.
That’s just his style.
“I play with emotions on my shoulders,” said Dawkins, a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles. “I have a great time on the football field … Whatever energy I have for that day is going to be given completely and fully on the field for my teammates.”
Orton is certainly appreciative that he’s joined forces with Dawkins and no longer has to face him.
“He’s an emotional guy,” Orton said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Dawkins hasn’t played much in the preseason after breaking his right hand in training camp. He’ll wear a cumbersome cast for the season opener Sunday at Cincinnati.
“Doesn’t affect me at all,” Dawkins said. “I can do everything I need to do.”
Including pick off passes?
“My hands are not the best as it is without the club,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be able to adjust and do what I need to do with the football.”
For Dawkins, his decision to leave Philadelphia wasn’t reached lightly. It was hard for him to say farewell to a team he helped lead to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
But he liked what he saw in Denver, so he signed in late February.
Then the fireworks went off.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels found himself embroiled in a clash with Pro Bowler Jay Cutler, leading to a trade that landed the strong-armed quarterback in Chicago.
Later, Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall asked for a trade when the team rejected his request for a new contract. He grew more unhappy throughout training camp and was suspended for the preseason on Aug. 28 for detrimental conduct. He’s since returned to the team, and teammates say he has had a better attitude.
This kind of drama wasn’t exactly what Dawkins signed on for when he came to town.
Yet his determination hasn’t wavered.
“I don’t see anything that’s going to hinder us or hamper us from going out and playing that type of defense we want to play,” Dawkins said. “As far as personalities go, we have a great group of guys.”