When you've been in the NFL for as long as Jason Kelce, a sixth-round draft pick in 2011, remember, you know that it's May and that all the hype and the pomp and circumstance around a team at this time of year means a hill of beans. You know that whatever happened the season before – good or not so much – is long forgotten by the time the team gathers in the spring and coordinates steps for the year ahead. You know there is going to be change, no matter how much the roster has turned over.
You know that to be great, you have to be patient and bear the responsibility of the process, step by step. Is it "running it back," as some like to say?
"I don't feel that way," Kelce said on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex as he continued preparation for the 13th season of a marvelous Eagles career that includes five All-Pro selections, six Pro Bowls, and two Super Bowl appearances with a victory in Super Bowl LII. "I know some people like saying that. I firmly believe that no two teams are the same. Even if we returned every single player, every single coach this year, it's a new year. The opponents are going to change, the schedule is different, you're going to have different things happen to you throughout the team throughout the season. No two seasons are going to be the same. No two teams are going to be the same. This thing is constantly evolving.
"We're starting, in my mind, from ground one. We're starting from the very bottom again and we're installing all the plays – this is what you have to do. You have to approach it like it's a completely new team in a completely new year. You keep trying to get better and you keep trying to improve. We're going to have to earn it the same way we did last year. They don't just hand it to you in this league.
"In some ways, it's going to be harder. When you do win and have a successful year, all offseason, all the offenses are looking to steal things that you do well. All the defenses are looking to stop the innovative, creative things that you're doing so you have more eyes on you. You have more time being spent around the things that you do structurally. We have a lot to prove and it's going to be even harder to have a really, really good season."
Kelce returned for his 13th season after considering everything, talking it over with his family and checking himself both mentally and physically. In the end, it came down to something pretty simple: "I wasn't ready to stop," said Kelce, who this week was named the Pro Football Writers of America's Good Guy Award winner. He is the 19th Good Guy Award recipient and third member of the Eagles (joining Chris Long in 2018 and 2019) to win the honor. "It just became apparent that I wasn't ready to stop yet. I know there's not a good reason for that, maybe, and there isn't any one thing. I still enjoy doing this. I know one day it's not going to be there and I'm going to have to stop. Us having a great year last year and returning a lot of pieces, I think does factor in probably. But I really think that it comes down to, more than that, I want to keep playing football."
The offense returns relatively intact from the 2022 campaign with the exception of right guard, where there is an opening for the starting job with a handful of very strong candidates including second-year man Cam Jurgens, young veterans Jack Driscoll and Sua Opeta, and maybe even rookie third-round draft pick Tyler Steen, a left tackle at Alabama who understands that he will be cross-trained here. The Eagles also saw running back Miles Sanders sign with Carolina in free agency, and they added Rashaad Penny in free agency and traded for D'Andre Swift during Draft Weekend to supplement the room.
Needless to say, the Eagles are excited about the prospects. They have a young quarterback at the top of his game in Jalen Hurts and Kelce admits that "Jalen makes us all a lot better," he said. The coaching staff and the scheme are proven and continue to perfect the daily work. So much is in place for another deep run.
But none of that happens, Kelce says, without attention to detail.
"We're all on the same page with that," he said. "Nobody is going to give us a thing. Going through all of these steps, that is part of the fun. We have a great group of people here and there is a lot of joy coming to work every day. I'm really enjoying it."