ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Dion Dawkins didn't play up to his usual high level during the Bills regular season opener this past Sunday.

It turns out he wasn't feeling like himself either, still dealing with the after effects from his battle with COVID, one that had him in a hospital for days right before training camp began in late July.

"My body went through a drastic tragedy," Dawkins said. "Every part of my body was battling. From being down at my lowest point and trying to be at my highest point in three weeks, I tried my best. Being a pro, your clock just has to be faster. I'm grinding at it every day. I'm not fully, fully, fully, fully, fully me, but I'm still me. It's just the conditioning part of it and that's not an excuse, but it's just saying that it'll be an entire season thing to just keep growing and to keep chopping away at my downfall, which will be on the up rise."

Dawkins missed the first few weeks of camp and saw limited action during the preseason.

His experience with the "bullets flying" against the Steelers was a mixed bag.

"It's just like, dang, that play felt harder than the previous play or the play after and this play felt great," Dawkins explained. 

And it is unclear how close Dawkins body is to being where it was before being hit with COVID.

"I have no idea," Dawkins said. "I wish that it was like pouring water and you could just see the cup go up, but it isn't. Some days I feel amazing and some days I don't. When I say it's an up and down battle, just everyday just feels different. It's not like drastically worse or anything like that, but it's just an up and down battle."

A battle that includes his mind as well as his body.

"It's definitely hard because you're hit with mental bullets that I've never expected," Dawkins admitted. "I used to think [I was] the best athlete on the field. Then when you have less conditioning because of COVID and your body's not fully there like that and that sets you back for a second or whatever that might be. The mental part, it's an up and down battle."

​This Sunday will be the next challenge where Dawkins can gauge the steps forward he's taken on his long road to recovery.