ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Brian Dawkins needed some time away from the game.
He needed to step back, pray and ensure that his choice whether or not to retire wouldn't be based on emotion.
But as he spoke to Denver media on the phone Monday, it was clear the decision itself was an emotional one.
"I’ve always told people that I would know when it’s time to call it quits," Dawkins said, his voice soft. "Being a fan of the game and seeing other guys in the past, I’ve always wanted to be somebody that left. It’s probably going to sound crazy, but the fact that I could play another year gave me a lot of peace to say that this was it. It sounds crazy, but that’s really the way that I felt about this, being a guy that supposedly left the game a year too soon, possibly, than a year too late."
Down the stretch last season, Dawkins missed four of the team's final five games -- including Denver's two playoff matchups. Still, at the end of the campaign, he said that "it would've taken a move from on high to keep me off the field" had the Broncos advanced to the AFC Championship.
He echoed that sentiment Monday, saying that his body "feels good" and that a nerve issue in his neck "wasn't a main reason" for his retirement.
If his health didn't play a major role in his retirement, neither did his age, as Dawkins said that while there are things he can't do today that he did at age 24, he's "a lot wiser and more mature in my decision-making."
What it came down to, he said, was being there for his teammates.
"I wanted to be fair to my teammates, to make sure that I was all-in -- not halfway in, not most of the way in, but all the way in," he said, making note of a 16 game schedule and hope for a push to the playoffs. "It gave me more pause to make sure that I considered it a little more and thought about it a little more and prayed about it a little more, so that my decision, when it was announced today, that I was 100 percent with it."
After all his praying, meditating and talking with people close to him, including his wife, Dawkins said there wasn't a specific moment when the decision came to him.
"There was just a feeling that I've had for a little bit now that this was the right decision, he said. "That feeling turned into a complete peace."
From here, Dawkins said he'll go in whatever direction the Lord takes him. One place to start -- he wants to do a little coaching on the high school level.
That coaching could come in the Mile High City, a place he has grown to love.
"I'll stay here in Denver," he said. "This is a beautiful place and my family loves it here. I love it here, so we'll be here. I'll raise my kids here."
While he won't miss the aches and pains of an NFL season, the 16-year veteran said it's the experiences throughout each campaign that will be hard to replace.
"It’s just the things you do with your teammates, the time that is spent with your teammates, the conversations, the joking around, the preparation for games and that competition to go out and see if you can inflict your will on somebody else or make somebody else unball their fist, that type of thing," Dawkins said. "Those are the things that I’ll definitely miss.”
When asked how he hopes to be remembered, Dawkins said simply as a player who worked hard every day, someone who teammates could count on no matter the situation.
And someday -- possibly as soon as the class of 2017 -- he could be remembered as a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“If that's something that happens, that will be a blessing," Dawkins said. "I never entered the NFL saying, ‘You know, I'm going to be a Hall of Famer.’ I know some guys do that; I just wasn't one of them. That wasn't my mindset. I did not enter the league saying, ‘I want to play 16 years.’ None of these things were in my mind, so, at this point, now that I can really reflect on my career, if it happens, I will share it with my fans and all those that cheered me on. I would share it with my coaches and teammates.
"It would be an absolute blessing and honor.”