ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Covid-19 does not discriminate, it can affect even the most healthy and active people. Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins found that out the hard way.
Dawkins was in the hospital for four days while battling Covid and experienced some of the worst symptoms of the virus.
“If there’s a checklist for it, it was everything. It was shortness of breath, it was the hot and cold, it was the cough, it was everything. Like the dehydration like all of the body stuff,” Dawkins said on Tuesday after practice.
The Bills opened training camp on July 28 and Dawkins was on the NFL’s Reserve/Covid list until last Thursday when the Bills activated him. He did not play in Friday’s preseason opener in Detroit but has returned to practice as he’s started working his way back.
“I’m still tired in practice and I’m like we just went through warm ups and like can I get a water? But that’s all a part of it. I took a hit and now it’s time for me to get back and I’m just glad I’m that back,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins will play in the Bills second preseason game in Chicago and Saturday.
“He has made significant progress, he’s had a great attitude since coming back. I think he missed it, right? I saw where he said he was in the hospital and we were out here practicing so to hear him say that I think really speaks to how much he loves being out here with his teammates. He’s made great strides,” McDermott said on Thursday after practice.
McDermott also said it “remains to be seen” just how much Dawkins will play on Saturday.
Dawkins opened up about his fight with coronavirus on Tuesday. When he tested positive, Dawkins had already received both doses of the vaccine but was just shy of being fully vaccinated.
“I’m glad I had the vaccine when I had Covid and I wish that I could have been fully vaccinated. I was right before the fully vaccinated point but, you know if I was fully I think it would have been a little bit easier on myself,” Dawkins explained.
“I was in the two week window [of being fully vaccinated], almost fully done. I was like a day or two short and then it hit.”
The reason Dawkins decided to eventually get the vaccinate was because of his family. In February, Dawkins’ son Dil was born premature and that pushed him to get the shots.
“I was just thinking about my family that if I got Covid, I could potentially harm him because it attacks the lungs and I just wanted to make sure my family was protected and also I guess do what was right for myself and for this team,” Dawkins said.
Thankfully, Dil is doing well and is “on the up and up” as Dawkins said.
And this experience hasn’t just affected his views on the vaccine with his immediate family, it’s also branched out to his extended family.
“Everybody is on board now with getting vaccinated because they don’t want to go through it like how I did,” Dawkins said.
Now it’s about getting back in shape after not only missing so much time but losing so much weight.
Dawkins said he was at 333-334 pounds before Covid and got down to 318. Because of that, head coach Sean McDermott said Dawkins has a “long road ahead” to get back to where they need him to be.
As for his teammates, this could be an eye opener for some players on the fence about getting the vaccine or even a teachable moment as to how this can impact a player.
“Overall guys just want knowledge of exactly what was going on and how it really made me feel. And I just told them the honest truth of what I went through,” Dawkins said.
And his message is simple:
“Whatever you’re comfortable doing, do it. But just do your research and just try to think about others.”
His teammates couldn’t be happier he’s with the team again and already sees the impact his presence back makes.
“Oh it’s huge, he’s one of the big leaders on the team. He’s a guy that gets it done day in and day out and I think the other O-line guys look up to him, the younger guys and I’m just happy he’s back out here and he’s healthy,” Bills running back Matt Breida said Thursday after practice.
It’s not just the physical toll the virus had on Dawkins, but mentally it was a huge battle as well, taking his mind to places he has never been.
“I didn’t know that my mind could get to the low that it could get to. I was extremely emotional, extremely emotional like I didn’t even think that I was that emotional. I don’t wanna scare anybody but there were moments I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna make this,'” Dawkins opened up.
“I was down bad, I was down bad where I could barely move and I was just hurting. But you keep pushing. God has a way of doing stuff and making things happen in your life so you can snap back and realize life could be over before you know it.”