"It's just the fact about having peace about stepping away from the game knowing that I can play the game another year -- that may sound crazy -- but knowing I could play this game at least another year gave me a lot of peace," Dawkins, 38, said during a conference call Monday. "A lot more peace to step away from the game a year too early, rather than a year too late."
After 16 seasons, Dawkins retires with 26 sacks and 37 interceptions, having played in one Super Bowl with the Eagles and nine Pro Bowls (including this past season, as an alternate). Dawkins also was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection.
Dawkins battled neck injuries toward the end of the 2011 season and missed two of the Broncos' final three regular-season games and the team's two playoff games. However, the safety refuted any suggestion that his retirement was related to injury.
"Injury factors weren't the main ingredient here. It really wasn't," Dawkins said.
Dawkins, ever characterized by his physical style of play, said another player could come into the league and play like him, but the stricter rules would make it hard for them to be successful.
"He can exist," Dawkins said. "It's going to be tough, it's going to be tough, but he can play."
While others already have started the Pro Football Hall of Fame talk, Dawkins said that was never something he said to himself when he came into the league.
"There is a small percentage of guys who get a chance to play in the National Football League," Dawkins said. "So, just being able to be on the field, you know, to be out there on the field, not on the sideline but on the field playing the game is something that will be missed."
Dawkins said he plans on coaching at the high school level in Denver, but he doesn't have any other immediate plans, other than to spend time with his family.
"My wife has done an excellent job of raising our kids," Dawkins told The Denver Post. "A lot of time I'm not here. I'm going to be around more."