Brian Dawkins reveals his career-long battle with depression

Brian Dawkins reveals his career-long battle with depression

Brian Dawkins left everything he had on the football fields coast to coast for 16 seasons, 13 with the Eagles and three with the Denver Broncos.

He was one of the most feared and respected players in the game, a workaholic, a perfectionist. Invincible. He was "Weapon X."

But in his rookie season, Dawkins battled more than just opponents on the field. He was also waging war with himself — an issue few people knew about.

Recently, I spent a day at his home in Parker, Colorado, discussing his past, his career and soon-to-be Hall of Fame induction. Our conversation began with the shocking revelation of how he almost buckled under the pressures of his life and how he almost reached a point of no return. I asked him to describe exactly what he was going through.

"When you're a newlywed, that's tough in itself," Dawkins said. "You have your way of doing things and your spouse has their way, and there are some things that clash in between. But I also had issues growing up period with my anger issues. Not being able to deal with some of the things like the extra energy I had.

"I had troubles channeling that anger in the right direction. They would come out in outbursts, and because I'm a quiet individual, and as men, we don't talk … anyway, I talked even less, and so all that stuff was bounding up. When you don't have answers, it comes out in different ways. During that first year, I had a lot of pressures from family members, being a newlywed, my son, Brian, was born.

"We're new parents with a colicky baby, so there's no sleep, and then, there were pressures on the job. Emmitt Thomas (his defensive coordinator) was constantly on me pushing me to be better because he saw more in me than I was putting out, to be honest.

"Overall, I didn't have any outlets, and so I began to drink a little more than I needed to, and that quickly spiraled down into depression. I went through a real dark, deep depression. Alcohol was a tremendous crutch. There were times I didn't even want to be around my family, didn't want to be around my son.

"I just wanted to be in a dark room by myself with nobody. My room, I won't say was a frequent occurrence, but it was something I would do. My faith back then wasn't that strong, so I listened to the other voice in my head, and that's where suicidal thoughts came in, and then actually planning out how I would go about it in such a way that Connie (his wife) and my son would get the money from my insurance policy."

Thomas and his wife eventually aided Dawkins in getting help. Dawkins began to see a psychiatrist and also began taking medication for his depression. The meds helped calm him down, but he wasn't himself.

"The pain I was feeling was tremendous," Dawkins said. "But then, I found a way to control it. I rededicated my life. Being able to deal with that through my renewed faith. Going to more and more bible studies. Giving my life over to the Lord, completely helped me go on to become the athlete I became and the person I became."

Dawkins is winning the biggest battle of his life against depression.

"That feeling is always there to this day," Dawkins said. "It's just waiting for you to feel so sorry for yourself that you can come back down and start having those same feelings again. My faith is strong enough now that I can tell that part of me to shut up and that's now who I am."

To hear more of my conversation with Dawkins, tune into NBC Sports Philadelphia at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 for "SNC Special: Brian Dawkins Enshrined." 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free, confidential crisis counseling 24/7/365. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Eagles battle back, let it slip late in wild, injury-filled loss to Falcons

AP Images/John Bazemore

Eagles battle back, let it slip late in wild, injury-filled loss to Falcons


ATLANTA — What just happened???

Between the rash of injuries, the crazy rallies, the big plays and near misses, lousy Carson Wentz and then great Carson Wentz, this was one bizarre game. But the bottom line is the Eagles weren't good enough. This was a winnable game and they gave it away.

Let's take a look with 10 instant observations off the Eagles' 24-20 loss Sunday to the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

1. Remember when we said the Eagles were playing with fire getting off to all these slow starts? Against the Redskins, you can get away with it. Against the Falcons on the road? Nope. The Eagles were terrible early and even though they did briefly take the lead late in the fourth quarter, the slow start killed them again. They’ve scored touchdowns in two of their last 12 first quarters. They’ve been outscored 30-13 in the first half this year. They’ve gone five straight road games without a first quarter touchdown. They made it interesting. But interesting doesn't win football games. They have to find a way to start fast. It caught up with them Sunday night.

2. What to make of Wentz's performance? Really, the same as the team in general. He was brutal in the first half and fantastic in the second half. Rallied the Eagles to the lead with some vintage Wentz plays. In the end, it wasn’t enough. He was clearly dealing with something physical in the first half — it looked like sore ribs — but the bottom line is he needs to be great from the start of the game, and we’ve been saying it for two years now. He’s a gamer. He bounced back huge in the second half. He nearly pulled off two rallies in the final few minutes. None of it matters because he just can't get going early.

First half: 6-for-16, 47 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 6.2 passer rating
Second half: 18-for-26, 177 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 101 passer rating

3. Nelson Agholor’s performance kind of epitomizes the Eagles’ inconsistency. He has to catch that deep ball just before the two-minute warning. That’s a certain touchdown. Then he somehow hauls in a wild 44-yard jump ball to put the Eagles in position to at least have a chance to win in the final seconds. He also had two early drops and even though he finished with over 100 yards, these are mistakes an elite team just can’t make. With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery out, the Eagles needed Agholor to be great, and he had some great moments but too many disappointing ones.

4. It was encouraging to see the defense pick off three passes, something the Eagles hadn’t done in nearly two years. In fact, last year they only had one game with two interceptions, and they only had four INTs through six weeks. When your offense is down two receivers — three for a bit — and a tight end and running back, and the O-line is struggling, somebody has to raise their level, and Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby and Nate Gerry all picked off Matt Ryan. It's only the 10th time in 176 career games he’s thrown three INTs. For Darby, it wasn’t really enough to offset a terrible game trying to cover Calvin Ridley, but those were all huge plays and kept the Eagles in the game when there were a lot of reasons they shouldn’t have been in the game.

5. There was some uncharacteristically conservative play-calling from Doug Pederson — letting the clock run out before the two-minute warning in the first half, running plays on two 2nd-and-2s and a 2nd-and-3. Normally, I’d really question that, but considering who he had and who he didn’t have, it really did make sense. Pederson's DNA is to be aggressive, but this is part of what makes him a great coach, the ability to sense the situation and adjust. 

6. I really thought the Eagles would be able to come in here and hammer the football on the ground. And Pederson tried early, but it just didn’t happen. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for 18 carries for 46 yards — 2.6 yards a pop. So, the final run-pass ratio was 41 called passes, 19 called runs, and that’s just a little too out of whack. The Eagles should be able to run the ball better than this. And Darren Sproles, who got too many touches last week, had zero on offense Sunday night, which mystifies me as much as when he got 16 against the Redskins.

7. Overall, this was not a good night for the offensive line. They got going a little bit late but overall they allowed too much pressure and really didn’t take command of the line of scrimmage in a matchup where I thought they could. And no excuses. This group is healthy. The Eagles need to lean on that O-line, and they couldn’t Sunday night.

8. Mack Hollins hadn’t caught a pass since the Atlanta playoff game in 2017. I give that kid so much credit. He came up huge when the Eagles really needed him, and that 17-yard catch on the crazy Wentz scramble in the fourth quarter was an incredible play by Wentz but it was also really good stuff from Hollins. He was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 50 yards. I thought he was in danger of getting cut in favor of Greg Ward. He showed Sunday night he belongs.

9. I know a lot of people had this one marked down as a loss, so it’s easy to say, “Hey, the Lions are coming to town, they’ll be 2-1.” But nothing is guaranteed. And this game was winnable. You just can’t give games away. The big plays are killing them on defense and the inconsistency is killing them on offense. This team through two weeks has shown flashes of greatness but they haven’t been able to sustain them. The challenge for Pederson is to find a way to jump on teams and put them away. Until that happens, they won’t be an elite team.

10. The Eagles face some tough personnel decisions here depending on how badly Jeffery and Jackson are hurt. These don’t look like IR injuries, but it sure seems like they’re going to need some healthy receivers. Greg Ward is on the practice squad and so is a kid named Marcus Green. But to add someone you have to cut someone or IR someone. Very tough situation. They’ve gone from great depth at the position to no depth. 

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11:35 p.m.: Had Zach Ertz been able to stretch another foot, the Eagles might have been able to pull out a win, but it didn’t happen. Ertz picked up 7 1/2 yards on 4th-and-8 with the Eagles driving toward the end zone and the Falcons pick up the win. 

An absolutely crazy game with a injuries and craziness. It would have been a huge win, but the Eagles come up just short. 

Final: Falcons 24, Eagles 20 

11:17 p.m.: Matt Ryan just hit Julio Jones on a little dump off that went for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Falcons the lead again. It came on 4th-and-3. 

Carson Wentz and the Eagles will get the ball back with two timeouts and 2:10 left. 

11:10 p.m.: Are you kidding me? 

The Eagles just drove 73 yards on 13 plays in 8:29 to score a touchdown, get a 2-point conversion and take a three-point lead with just over three minutes left. 

Carson Wentz connected with Mack Hollins on a 3rd-and-6 and a 3rd-and-9 to move the sticks. And then Wentz punched in a touchdown from the 1-yard line on a QB sneak. He spiked the ball so hard, he fell over. Then he hit Zach Ertz for the 2-point conversion. 

3:13 left: Eagles 20, Falcons 17 

10:54 p.m.: Andrew Sendejo just picked up the first full sack of his career. He’s in Year 10. Good time for it. It forced a punt and gives the Eagles the ball with 11:42 left, down 5. 

10:50 p.m.: The Eagles drive fizzled and now they need the defense to come up with another stop, but the Falcons have a short field. They’re at their own 45-yard line. 

10:41 p.m.: Big INT for Nate Gerry in the end zone. It was a touchback but Derek Barnett was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty to give the Eagles the ball at their own 10-yard line. Still, no points for Atlanta and the Eagles are down five points with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. 

It was Gerry’s second-career INT. 

10:37 p.m.: If you need to catch up on all the injuries: 

And now Sidney Jones to the medical tent. Unreal. 

10:30 p.m.: The Eagles are alive! 

Even though half of their team has taken a trip to the blue medical tent, they’re down just five points in the third quarter. After Ronald Darby got his first INT in nearly a calendar year, Carson Wentz hit Nelson Agholor on a 4-yard touchdown. Wentz dove across the goal line for the 2-pointer but a review ruled he was short. 

Still 4:57 left in the third quarter: 

Falcons 17, Eagles 12 

10:16 p.m.: Nelson Agholor was being evaluated for a concussion, but he’s back in the game. He’s good to go. That means the Eagles have three healthy receivers. 

But then there's this: 

10:11 p.m.: Well … that wasn’t an ideal start to the second half. 

Corey Clement fumbled the kickoff and the Falcons needed just three plays to punch in a touchdown. Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 4-yard touchdown to cap the short drive. 

Still 13:23 left in the third: Falcons 17, Eagles 6 

9:59 p.m.: Party in the blue tent!

The Eagles are somehow down just four points, 10-6, at halftime, but have had a ton of injuries, including Carson Wentz, who left the game for six plays late in the first half. 

After Sidney Jones picked off a pass from Matt Ryan, Josh McCown took the field with the offense, but Wentz eventually returned. Jake Elliott hit his second field goal to cut the deficit to four points. 

Add Wentz to the growing list of Eagles who have been hurt tonight: Dallas Goedert (calf), Alshon Jeffery (calf), DeSean Jackson (groin) and Jason Kelce, who returned without missing any time. 

The Eagles were out-gained 207 to 95 in the first half. 

At half: Falcons 10, Eagles 6 

9:28 p.m.: The Falcons just scored the games first touchdown. Matt Ryan hit Calvin Ridley for a 34-yard touchdown over Ronald Darby. It’s pretty clear the Falcons are targeting Darby, who isn’t playing well. And Andrew Sendejo didn’t provide the help he was supposed to on that play. 

With 4:56 left in the half: Falcons 10, Eagles 3 

9:19 p.m.: We finally have an update on a couple more injured players. We already knew Dallas Goedert (calf) was questionable to return. 

Add two more to that list: 

The Eagles now have just three receivers — Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins — and one tight end (Zach Ertz) healthy. 

Matt Bryant just missed a 50-yard field goal to keep this game tied. 

9:08 p.m.: The Eagles just tied the game at 3-3 in the second quarter as Jake Elliott hit a 34-yard field goal. 

The Eagles are dealing with some injuries on offense to their skill position players. Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson all have injuries. And now Jason Kelce is in the medical tent. If Kelce has to miss time, Isaac Seumalo would likely slide to center and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would likely play LG. 

8:48 p.m.: A really nice TFL from Derek Barnett and the Eagles forced their first punt of the game. Interesting that on third down, Josh  

8:38 p.m.: The Eagles were forced to punt on their first drive, but a nice punt from Cam Johnston and a heads up play from Mack Hollins pins the Falcons at their own 1-yard line. 

Dallas Goedert, who might have gotten hurt during warmups, did not see the field on that first drive. 

8:29 p.m.: The Falcons were moving down the field until Brandon Graham had a huge six-yard TFL and eventually the Eagles forced the Falcons into the first third down of the game. The Eagles’ sticks defense held up, but Matt Bryant hit a 50-yard field goal. Still, it looked like the Falcons were gonna score a touchdown in a hurry and the Eagles’ defense held. 

Still 9:28 left in the first: Falcons 3, Eagles 0 

8:05 p.m.: Dallas Goedert was spotted heading back inside during warmups. He was spotted by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. 

That’s something to watch in this game. The Eagles came into this game with just two tight ends: Zach Ertz and Goedert. If Goedert is limited, expect to see a lot of Andre Dillard as a tight end/inline blocker. 

6:55 p.m.: The roof is indeed opening. 

6:54 p.m.: No surprises on the list of Eagles inactive players. In fact, the same seven from last week are inactive: 

Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee)
Jordan Mailata (back)
Nate Sudfeld (wrist)
Nate Herbig 
Matt Pryor 
Shareef Miller
Daeshon Hall 

6:40 p.m.: DeSean Jackson has taken the field.

And this is a good sign for Kamu Grugier-Hill, who's not wearing a brace.

6:20 p.m.: Carson Wentz is out on the field and getting ready.

4:47 p.m.: A quick look from the early games: The Giants lost to the Bills to fall to 0-2. 

And the Cowboys moved to 2-0 with a 31-21 win over the Redskins (0-2). That means the Eagles need to win tonight to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East. Either way, this is becoming a two-team race like we all expected. Dak Prescott has now thrown for 674 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games. He’s just the 11th quarterback all-time to put up those numbers in the first two games of a season. 

4:44 p.m.: I have arrived to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the second time in two days. This time, I’m really looking forward to the game. 

8:21 a.m.: Good morning, everyone! It’s going to be a long day of waiting for Sunday Night Football, but we should be in for a good game tonight. 

I got into Atlanta yesterday around noon and already saw a bunch of Eagles fans as I walked around town. I’d expect there to be a bunch at the game tonight. 

Last night, I got a chance to get a sneak peek at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a little early; I went to an Atlanta United game. The stadium is really cool; they did a good job. And for those going to the game, remember: the concession prices are really reasonable. That’s one of the coolest things about this new stadium. 

For those who were asking, the Falcons play on different turf than the Atlanta United and the soccer pitch is wider too, so more seats get put in. 

Enjoy watching all the afternoon games. In the meantime, here are our Eagles-Falcons predictions and five matchups to watch. 

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