The team's starting left tackle was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list before its first training camp practice on July 28 and was activated on Thursday. It was a harrowing stretch for Dawkins, 27, who called it "one of the lowest points that I've ever been."
"I never even thought I could get that low because I'm so animated," he said. "And that hit hard, even with the mental stuff -- it hit every part of me and I was shocked that it could even hit that.
"Being in the hospital was probably the hardest part because I was like, 'Man, I'm in the hospital -- my team is out there working and I'm here.'"
Dawkins said he dealt with shortness of breath, fever chills, coughing, dehydration -- the full "checklist" of symptoms attached to COVID-19.
The father of two said he initially did not know what to believe in terms of the virus and the vaccine because of all the information -- and misinformation -- being spread, but he decided to get vaccinated because he "wanted to do what was right," and his prematurely born son whose lungs were still developing was a primary consideration.
However, his positive result came within the two-week period following his second dose for the vaccine to fully kick in.
"I wish I could have been fully vaccinated -- if I was fully [vaccinated], it probably would have been a little easier on myself," he said. "But hey, whatever you're comfortable with, do it. Just do your research and try to think about others because everybody is going to go through it differently."
Dawkins said his teammates' first reaction to his return was shock over the roughly 16 pounds he'd lost. He said his teammates also asked for "the honest truth" of what he went through dealing with the virus -- which he gladly shared with them.
He said he emphasized that they did not want to get to the point he reached during his time away from the team.
Dawkins also said he spoke with Bills receiver Cole Beasley, who vocally opposed getting the vaccine and the NFL's rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated players. He called Beasley his "brother" and said Beasley wasn't downplaying the virus and vaccine as much as he was downplaying the information he was given.
The 2017 second-round draft pick rejoined the team last week to do conditioning work on the side before his activation off the reserve list. Bills coach Sean McDermott said Monday that Dawkins had a ways to go before he was ready to contribute.
"He's not close to where he needs to be to play and help us," McDermott said. "So he's got a long road here. So we're just going to ... he's going to control what he can control, and so are we. He's got to continue to work hard to get himself back to where he's -- I mean, this is what, going on Week 4 of training camp at this point, so he's missed a lot of time."
Dawkins said he couldn't believe how "down bad" he was as a professional athlete hospitalized by COVID-19 -- but that his experience convinced several of his family members to get vaccinated, as well.
Buffalo signed Dawkins to a four-year, $68 million extension last offseason. He has been the Bills' starting left tackle for each of his four NFL seasons.