All keyed up for reunion weekend

Facing former teams motivation for trio of players

December 27, 2009|By Sam Farmer Inside the NFL

Brian Dawkins needs no introduction in Philadelphia.

But he's getting one anyway.

At the request of the Broncos, Dawkins and the rest of the Denver defense will be introduced individually before Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles complied, honoring the wish of Dawkins, a seven-time Pro Bowl safety who's among the most popular players in Eagles history.

Dawkins signed with the Broncos in February after 13 seasons with the Eagles during which he broke Harold Carmichael's club record of 180 games played. It could be an emotional return for Dawkins, who has not ruled out skipping pregame warm-ups in order to keep his composure.

"Obviously it has crossed my mind what's it going to be like," he said in a conference call. "Whatever it is, I know they've appreciated me just like I've appreciated them over the years."

His won't be the only reunion of Week 16. Here's a look at some others:

Shaun Suisham and the Redskins. Earlier this month, the Redskins nearly pulled off a stunning upset of then-undefeated New Orleans, but the Saints came back late and won in overtime.

That could have been avoided had Suisham made a 23-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Instead he missed, setting the stage for the New Orleans revival.

Even though Suisham had been accurate for most of the season, the Redskins showed him the door.

They meet again Sunday. The Cowboys signed Suisham on Monday to replace struggling Nick Folk, and they play at Washington in a critical game for their postseason plans.

Larry Johnson and the Chiefs. Fancy meeting you here. That must be what Bengals running back Johnson is thinking as he prepares to face his former team, which ranks 31st against the run.

The Chiefs released Johnson last month after suspending him for making derisive comments about coach Todd Haley on his Twitter account and using homosexual slurs. The Bengals signed him a week later.

"Knowing Larry, I know he'll be up for this game," Haley said. "I would expect nothing less, so we've got to be up. Whether it's (starter Cedric Benson) or (Johnson) in there, we've got to be ready to play."

Benson is the No. 1 back, and it remains to be seen how much the Bengals will use Johnson. They have a far bigger incentive than allowing one of their players to exact revenge on a former team: They can clinch the AFC North with a victory.

"What's going on right now is bigger than me versus the Kansas City Chiefs," Johnson said. "It's basically us trying to put ourselves in a great position to get into the playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl."

Rivers flowing: Philip Rivers is a country boy and a family man, and his vehicles reflect that. When he's not driving his Ford pickup truck, he rolls around in a minivan, earning him all sorts of ribbing in the Chargers' locker room.

But in the eyes of the greatest quarterback in Chargers history, Rivers spends every week behind the wheel of a vintage roadster, a tire-squealing offense assembled decades ago.

"It's great to see the thing that Air Coryell was all about is still successful today," said Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who threw for 43,000 yards in the jet-fueled offense of legendary coach Don Coryell. "To have a guy like Philip there is perfect. ... It's just a fearless commitment to let it fly."

Fouts said he isn't surprised a quarterback with Rivers' arm and accuracy is flourishing in this system, with started with Sid Gillman and Coryell, was passed on to longtime assistant Ernie Zampese and then to current Chargers coach Norv Turner. (Turner and Zampese were fellow assistants on the Los Angeles Rams.)

"I remember talking to Jimmy Johnson when he took over in Dallas about Norv," Fouts said, referring to Turner's stint as Cowboys offensive coordinator from 1991 to '93. "And he asked me a couple questions about Norv, and then he said, 'Now the most important question, will he bring that offense to Dallas?'

"I said, 'Absolutely.' And of course the results were a couple of Super Bowl wins."

What are the odds? The Saints might have a blemished record now, but their odds of winning the Super Bowl didn't take a hit with their loss last weekend to the Cowboys. They remain the co-favorite - with the 14-0 Colts - to win it all with 5-to-2 odds, according to BetUS.com.

The Vikings have the next-shortest odds at 11-to-2, followed by the Chargers at 7-to-1 and the Patriots at 10-to-1. The defending champion Steelers are 100-to-1.

Sam Farmer covers the NFL for the Los Angeles Times. sfarmer@tribune.com

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