The first time around can be a whirlwind. It can come and go so quickly that you realize, after it's gone, that you didn't take a moment to breathe it all in and cherish the moment. And then you wait for that second times and ... it ... never ... comes. For a group of seven Eagles on the active roster, this is the second time around. They won Super Bowl LII five years ago and here they are, right back again for another lifetime moment.
Each one of them aims to embrace every second of the experience.
The seven – defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, placekicker Jake Elliott, defensive end Brandon Graham, offensive tackle Lane Johnson, center Jason Kelce, long snapper Rick Lovato, and guard Isaac Seumalo (defensive end Derek Barnett is on Injured Reserve) – know what's coming when the Eagles land in Arizona on Sunday. They know how intense the hype will be, how overwhelming the worldwide media scrutiny can be if you allow it to be, how long the hours in the hotel can pass.
They know that if you give in to the distractions, you can be taken out of your routine and out of your rhythm and, ultimately, out of your game very quickly.
"Just try to stay in your same routine, which is hard because you're not in your normal building every day," Cox said. "You wake up in a hotel every day. Just try to stick to your normal routine. Don't change nothing. If you were watching film here (NovaCare Complex) at 8 AM or 9 AM with a teammate, make sure you're doing the same thing. If you're taking care of your body at 'these' times of the day, like me, I do cardio every day, so I'll be looking for somewhere to do cardio every morning before my day gets started.
"Just remain the same."
Lovato remembers the trip in 2018, especially the Opening Night that happens on Monday, the day after the team arrives. Members of the media are looking for unique ways to portray the players, so Lovato was asked to wrap up hoagies – he had worked in a pizza shop before joining the Eagles, remember – and longsnapping them into small windows. All in fun, yes. Lunacy, of course.
"It was fun, but it was totally crazy," he said.
That's basically how it's going to be in Arizona with so many thousands of fans and reporters everywhere trying to gain a glimpse of the action. Truly, though, every player knows that reaching a Super Bowl once in a career is incredibly special. Doing it twice is remarkable.
"I feel like the first time I didn't document it as well as I would have liked as far as pictures and memories. It was a quick week," Johnson said. "The second time around my goal is to put as much work in and as much focus in as I can and at the same time enjoy it. I feel like Friday will be our day to enjoy it with our families, so as long as they're having fun and everybody else is good, that is what the Super Bowl is about."
Johnson has had a different perspective, of course, given his return from the groin/abdominal injury that threatened his season. He's "more thankful" to be in this position, and it is one to be appreciated.
"I'm cherishing every bit of it," Cox said.
All of these players have been instrumental in the building of the Eagles through the 2010s and into the 2020s. They have transcended generations of coaching staffs and players here and they have been together through all of the ups and the downs. When Head Coach Nick Sirianni speaks of the veteran leadership that has helped him guide the team and direct the locker room, he means Cox and Kelce and Johnson and Graham and Seumalo and Elliott and Lovato. Institutional knowledge has its esteemed place even in this new-ideas-are-the-best-ideas world.
"I think we're a great organization. When you look at all the change, I really do think the Eagles have done a phenomenal job of keeping pieces and parts that they think will hold everything together, so that there's some good buy-in and there's still a solid culture and foundation to build on," Kelce said. "Jeff Stoutland (run game coordinator/offensive line coach) has been here for 10 years now and this is the third head coach he's been here with. That's not common in the NFL when there are coaching changes, that you retain somebody that many times.
"There are many people in this building that have gone through these coaching changes … the blow-it-up method is hard to reload everything with. When you have a good culture established that far precedes me – I mean, this culture was established, I would say with Andy Reid (head coach, 1999-2012), maybe those guys would say even before that – we have a great locker room, we have a lot of guys who care for one another, and I was brought into that as a young player."
Time can move extremely quickly during times when you want to savor the moment, because the Super Bowl experience rips past so much faster than in the regular season. You don't know when, or if, this will ever happen again.
Four of these players – Graham, Kelce, Cox, and Johnson – have been together for at least a decade. Those know that they have beaten Father Time in this league, and that's why these kinds of trips, with something so unbelievably special around them and in front of them, mean so much. No way are they going to cheat this Super Bowl experience, or let any of the young guys, some of whom may think this happens all the time, shortcut their way through the final week-plus of the 2022 Grind.
"You put the work in and you see what happens," Graham said. "Nobody is going to take this away from me. I'm going to love every minute of it."