ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brian Dawkins says his head told him to retire, not his neck.
The veteran safety called Denver Broncos coach John Fox on Monday morning to tell him that he'd decided that 16 seasons in the NFL were enough.
Then, Dawkins announced his retirement on Twitter, where he quickly began trending as fans expressed their admiration for the mild-mannered family man who transformed himself into a ferocious football player on Sundays.
Dawkins, who spent 13 years with the Philadelphia Eagles and the last three with Denver, was one of the greatest to ever play his position, and nobody played safety in the NFL longer than he did. Only two other safeties played 16 seasons: Hall of Famer Paul Krause and Eugene Robinson.
Dawkins, 38, said he felt he had another year left in him after recovering from a serious neck injury that sidelined him for the stretch run and playoffs last season. But he instead fulfilled one final wish from his NFL bucket list: walking away from the game he loves before being betrayed by a battered body.
Cowboys LB Spencer signs contract tender
IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer signed the contract tender that goes with the franchise tag. Spencer is guaranteed to make about $8.8 million next season under the one-year deal.
A first-round pick out of Purdue in 2007, Spencer has 21 1/2 sacks in 76 career games, including 53 starts. He has started all but one game the past three seasons. He had 66 tackles with six sacks and four recovered fumbles last season.
Around the league
• PACKERS: Green Bay released veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, who has been the Packers' primary left tackle since 2000, starting 160 regular-season games in 12 seasons. He played only six games last season with hamstring and back injuries.
• DOLPHINS: Defensive end Phillip Merling was waived by Miami after making only seven tackles over the past two seasons. Merling was the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 draft but started only five games in four seasons. He missed the first 11 games in 2010 with an Achilles tendon injury.
• BEARS: Chicago signed guard Chilo Rachal to a one-year contract. Rachal started 38 games over the past four seasons for San Francisco. He appeared in 55 games overall for the 49ers, who drafted him in 2008.
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