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A Locker Room Filled With Hungry Dogs

Each of them did it their own way after winning the Super Bowl and partying up Broad Street and down the Parkway for the Parade of Champions. Some of them disappeared. Some of them hit the talk-show circuit. All of them healed.

Nearly four months after winning Super Bowl LII, the Eagles are back at it. They’re on the field. They’re doing 11-on-11 stuff, no matter how surreal it feels for others that the 2018 season is really, truly here. What’s interesting – and extremely encouraging -- to see as the Eagles get after it in Phase 3 of the offseason is the high level of energy the players have. At first glance, the team has picked up right where it left off in the emotional-reserve category.

“It’s football. We’re back. The brothers are back and it’s great to see everyone come together,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. “We still have that hunger and that purpose. We aim to keep winning.”

Ahhhhh, but it’s not that easy, of course. Only eight teams have repeated as Super Bowl champions. That’s in the history of the NFL. Eight repeat winners.

A shorter offseason, a toll on the body, the inherent difficulty of winning the Super Bowl, these are all contributing factors to the low rate of repetition. As Eagles know after grasping at straws for 52 of ‘em, winning the Supe is a daunting task. Repeating is even more difficult.

“The hardest part is the very thing that coach (Doug Pederson) has done a good job of talking about, which is, you show up, everybody is telling you how great you are, people are talking about a ring ceremony, people are talking about appearances that we got to do over the offseason, the first game they lower the (Super Bowl) banner (at Lincoln Financial Field). There are reminders all the time of what you did in the past that was so great,” defensive end Chris Long said. “That’s the thing. It was in the past and as football shows you every year, I mean, it doesn’t matter what you did last year and even if you won a championship, it has almost zero bearing on what happens the next year. In fact, it makes it harder.”

What about the hunger? How tough it is to come back after winning the ring, the quest of every player in the league, with the same desire and desperation? The Eagles say it’s not an issue, that every day in the NFL requires players to have that special edge. If you don’t bring it every day, you’re going to lose your job in this league. That’s just a fact of life.

So, stay hungry. Or else, well, as center Jason Kelce intimated, a less-hungry dog won’t run as fast. Or something like that.

“That doesn’t change,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “I’m hungry every day. The desire to be great is something that you carry into the building every day. What we did last year is in the past and everyone knows it. We’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be the champions and I think that once you have that taste, you don’t want to lose it. And so you know the path. You know what it takes. We all had some time to handle our business and celebrate the Super Bowl, and then it’s time to prepare for the next season. We have a tall task at hand. We’re just one of 32 teams and all of us are competing for the same thing.”

The players point to the leadership from the coaching staff and from inside the locker room as to reasons the offseason has been attacked with such vigor. Pederson knows the routine. He lived it as a player and he’s been on the coaching side for a long time. He relates to the challenges of keeping players fresh now and at the same time preparing them for Training Camp and the competition there. The fact that the Eagles loaded up in the offseason and added so much competition across the board helps keep the players on edge. If you’re a receiver and you think you can take it easy this year and then look around and see a veteran like Markus Wheaton here competing for a roster spot, and a new guy, Mike Wallace, lining up as a starter at wide receiver, suddenly you aren’t so cozy. Same with the defensive line. And the cornerbacks. And the running backs. And so on.

The way the Eagles have challenged the roster has been noticed.

“I think they’ve done a great job with that,” Johnson said. “The better players we have, the better we’re all going to be. Competition brings out the best in everybody.”

And that’s the name of the game. The Eagles are hungry. The Eagles are pushing. There is no Super Bowl hangover. Having already celebrated the historic victory, the Eagles have moved on to the present. It’s a good place to be.

“It’s just different here. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s a special feeling,” said Wallace, who played in Pittsburgh, Miami, Minnesota and Baltimore before signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent in March. “There’s always an adjustment to make when you go to a new team, but this one has been smooth. Very welcoming. The energy level here is different. You walk into this building and you know the Eagles won it all last year, but now the focus is on 2018 and if you aren’t on board, you are going to be left behind.”

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