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Leading the Charge

Posted Dec 31, 2009

Brian Dawkins is one of three veterans tapped to help kick off a new Player Advisory Committee led by former NFL head coach Tony Dungy. The safety is excited for the opportunity to share his thoughts with the league.

Broncos Magazine Weekly Tony Dungy will lead the Player Advisory Committee as a special advisor to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Check out the past editions of Broncos Magazine Weekly:

12/24: Family, Friends and Football

12/17: Eddie the Entrepreneur

12/10: Showing Support During the Holidays

12/3: Bond of Brothers

11/26: Giving Thanks on Gameday

11/19: Soy-Based Success

11/12: Keeping the Dorm Lifestyle

11/5: Breakfast Blitz

10/29: Some Well-Earned Time Off

10/22: Modeling the Way

10/15: All in the Family

10/8: Tackling Hunger With a Helping Hand

10/1: Throwback Turf Adds To Atmosphere

9/24: A Ring-of-Fame Caliber Entrance

9/17: Telling the Stories

9/10: American Idol at Mile High

By Gray Caldwell
Broncos Magazine Associate Editor

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the past month, a new venue has opened for players to share their questions, comments and concerns with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and Brian Dawkins is at the forefront.

The league has formed an NFL Player Advisory Forum to increase communication between the players and the league office, and Tony Dungy was pegged to lead the program as a special advisor to the commissioner.

Dawkins, who won the Byron "Whizzer" White Award before the season and was recently voted the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner, is one of the respected veterans chosen to help kick off the forum along with Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Arizona's Kurt Warner.

"This will be a great new way for players working with Coach Dungy to be part of the process of improving the league for everybody," Dawkins said.

In his new role, Dungy will organize the meetings, identify the player attendees and develop a list of topics for discussion. Commissioner Goodell will attend the meetings and the NFL Players Association has been invited to send a representative as well.

"I think it's critical to get that communication not only from the commissioner to the players, but from the players back to the commissioner," Dungy said. "Whatever I can do to help that, I'm certainly excited to do."

So far the meetings have been set on Tuesdays throughout December in centralized cities where several players can make it on short flights. The idea was to start collecting the information before the season is over, and continue it into the offseason.

The most recent meeting was held at a hotel near Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Dec. 29, and was attended by Atlanta's Justin Blalock and Will Svitek, Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud, Cincinnati's Dhani Jones, Buffalo's Chris Draft and Carolina's John Kasay.

Dawkins hasn't been to any meetings yet, but he said he's looking forward to being able to share some of his views with Dungy, Commissioner Goodell and the league office.

"It's a pleasure and honor to be able to have communication and be in a group with Coach Dungy," Dawkins said. "I've read his books and I know his heart -- to help young men out from his ministry. So to be a part of that, and to assist in that is a privilege for me."

On the other side, Dungy stressed the importance of having help from players the caliber of Dawkins, Lewis and Warner.

"I think that is the key, having feedback from a lot of different players, but when you can get the quality guys, the guys that everyone in the league respects -- the players respect, the coaches respect, the owners respect, the league office respects -- that's important, because then you're saying that communication is legitimate," Dungy said.

The former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach served on the league's competition committee during his coaching tenure, and the group would often meet with players at the NFL Combine in a similar forum.

In his first year involved with the committee, a group of defensive linemen aired some of their grievances heading into the upcoming season.

"Those guys said, 'We have a lot of things to protect defenseless players, but they seem to be offensive players, kick returners, quarterbacks, receivers -- we're in a tough situation at times, too, and can we look at some of these rules?'" Dungy recalled. "I think that was the year that the chop block ... and some of those rules came in directly as a result of meeting with some of the defensive linemen."

The hope is that the new Player Advisory Forum can lead to similar changes.

Dungy said he expects topics discussed to range from player safety, conduct and discipline, performance-enhancing drugs, rule changes and concussions to post-career issues like going back to school and transitioning out of the league and back into private life.

In the first few meetings, topics will most likely focus on the negatives that need to be changed. But Dungy said he hopes to also get some insight into what the league has been doing well.

"They are going to come with the things that concern them," Dungy said. "Then my job is to say, 'OK, fine, we want to take all that in and we do want to hear about what concerns you. Are there things that are going right? Are there things that are going positive that you want to see increased or make sure we continue down that path?' You try to balance it out."

It is a program that the league is excited about, but the players are equally as happy for the opportunity to try to change the game for the better.

"This is an area where we need unity because it's about players and the league helping each other," Lewis said. "I truly believe we can accomplish things that will carry on way beyond us."