ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For Brian Dawkins, Tuesday's visit to Dove Valley wasn't a tough one.
Walking back through the familiar locker room, seeing his teammates work out, talking with coaches -- it was all positive.
"When you first make that decision, it was a little bit emotional for me," Dawkins said. "I'm at peace with the decision, so today it's more of a joy to be able to see these guys."
And that peace became even more apparent to him when he had to figure out whether he should still park in the players' lot or out front with staff and visitors.
"That kind of let me know that I'm going in the right direction as far as mentally understanding that (I'm retiring)," Dawkins laughed. "They graciously let me park in the back."
His day began with a visit to the team's war room, where Owner/CEO Pat Bowlen surprised him with a framed No. 20 jersey.
He hugged and chatted with Bowlen, President Joe Ellis, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway, Head Coach John Fox, General Manager Brian Xanders, Director of Player Personnel Matt Russell, Director of Pro Personnel Keith Kidd and Assistant Director of College Scouting Lenny McGill along with other members of the personnel staff, thanking them for the opportunity to play in Denver.
"The door's always open," Elway told Dawkins.
As far as Dawkins is concerned, it always has been.
"For them to open the door the way they did -- not just open the door, but they said, 'Listen, this is your home,'" he said. "They gave me that opportunity to come here and just be me. It's been a blessing to be able to play for another organization that, to be honest with you, I feel loved by. That's what you really want as a player, somewhere you really feel appreciated."
From there, he visited with teammates and coaches before heading downstairs to talk to the media.
On a conference call Monday, Dawkins discussed some of his reasoning for retiring, saying that he "always told people that I would know when it's time to call it quits."
Tuesday, Dawkins seemed relaxed. He displayed some of the "complete peace" with the decision he had already talked about.
Still, he recognized he's in for a change.
"You get the schedule, that's been our lives," Dawkins said. "It's been my life for 16 years, add four to that for college and a couple more for high school, that's been our lives. You're here from this time to this time, this is the meeting time, this is when you eat. When you leave the game, you don't have that anymore.
"I have it now, it's from 6:30 to 7:30, that's taking kids to school time. So I do have slots, but now I have to schedule things for myself to do. Not just to be busy, but do something that I love to do. Coaching is one of those things."
Golf is another. Ministry work is another.
But Dawkins knows football will always be part of his life.
As he mentioned, he hopes to coach high school football -- possibly even for his son's team.
While he admitted he has "no idea" what type of coach he will be, he doesn't expect to be a screamer.
He knows that not every player looks the same, pointing out that
"I'm going to try my best to find what they're good at, strengthen those areas that they're not good at and encourage them along the way," he said. "At the same time, not just football -- be able to help them have tools going forward to impact wherever they're going to be."
As for the first NFL Sunday that won't feature Dawkins as a player since the mid-1990s, the 38-year old hasn't made plans.
But he knows he will spend it with his family -- including a perhaps disappointed son.
"I don't think he likes to watch football with me, because I'm always rewinding, 'Did you see that? Did you see that? That was Cover-3, he should've been there,'" Dawkins laughed. "So I don't think he really likes watching football with me."
In all seriousness, Dawkins said the knowledge that his family is behind his decision -- even happy about it -- helped him find peace with it.
"The smiles on their face told me that they're excited," he said. "I'll be around a little more.
"That really felt great to have their support."
As he moves forward living with his family in Denver -- a place he was "pleasantly surprised" that he grew to love -- he has no regrets.
The one thing he might change is Super Bowl XXXIX, a game his Philadelphia Eagles lost, to "see if I could get just one ring."
"But that does not in any way diminish my career," he said. "For me, when I look at my career, I honestly look at it from the eyes of myself when I was in high school. To see and to know that I played this game for 16 years, to see and to know that my name will be mentioned with some of the guys that I looked up to…
"I've been so blessed to play this game," Dawkins said. "I can't be mad at that."