CULVER CITY, Calif. -- The attention on head injuries and concussions to NFL players -- during and after their careers -- has been a huge focal point this offseason, especially in light of the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" program and the multiple lawsuits filed by former players against the NFL.
Former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, a ferocious tackler who retired recently, said Thursday that he's not worried about long-term health issues and wouldn't think twice about playing 16 seasons again, even knowing the potential harm.
"Concerns? I have some concerns, but worry? No," Dawkins said on NFL.com's "Cover Two" podcast. "I don't worry about that. Down the road at some point, later on in life, if I do have to deal with some things at that time, then I have to deal with them. As of right now, I'm going to continue to enjoy life, continue to have a great time with my family and help those who I can help, ministry-wise, along the way.
"I played this game a certain way. I played it with a passion, with fervor. I played with an aggression. I would not change those things. The only thing I would change is the helmet I wore. Technology is better."
Dawkins, 38, said his health is fine and he is pursuing post-career opportunities, possibly in broadcasting. He'll also coach the secondary for his son's high school football team. He added that he was wise with his money and is set for the future.
The NFL has tried to limit the kinds of hard hits Dawkins used to administer to receivers across the middle by implementing rule changes. Those changes contributed to his decision to retire after last season, he said. While he's all for protecting players, Dawkins said, the enforcement of those rules have clouded defenders' minds as to what is legal and what is not. At times, he said, players now will hesitate or step out of character.
"I'm not going to say it's one of the reasons, but ... to be stepping away from the game now, not having to deal with that stuff, is a good thing," Dawkins said. "Guys today (are) trying to play that way and trying to understand that you still have to be able to control these territories but you know you're probably going to get fined or get a flag because refs are told to err on the side of throwing the flag. You're asking guys to play in the gray."
Dawkins said he preferred to risk being fined or penalized rather than change his approach. He played the way he played, and that was that. However, the enforcement against helmet-to-helmet hits or being too physical with quarterbacks did cause him to pause on one occasion. So the league's message, then, was successfully conveyed, even if Dawkins didn't necessarily like how he reacted.
"The thing I did change -- it was a specific game against the (San Diego) Chargers last year -- I was blitzing, and I saw Philip [Rivers] raising his hand to throw," Dawkins said. "I didn't know if he was going to pull the ball back down. So, I hesitated a quick second to see, and I hit him with my shoulder. Back in the day, I would have just run right straight through him."
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.