By Elena Shklyar
PHOENIX — Green-and-white confetti fell onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis five years ago, as Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and Brandon Graham embraced one another following the first ever Super Bowl title for the Eagles and the first of their careers.
Now, those same key guys are back on the big stage with an opportunity to be crowned champions again. And they see one key similarity to that 2018 team.
“What I can say is the same about the two teams is the togetherness, ” said Graham, the longest-tenured player on the roster.
Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said a team cannot be successful without having that culture of closeness.
“The closeness of this team is unmatched. I believe this is a very, very close team,” Stoutland said. “I’m not just saying that, and this is very similar to last time. I don’t think you can win if your team is not that way.”
Stoutland said the sense of urgency, the love for the game and the passion of the way the team prepares are also similar to the Eagles’ 2018 Super Bowl team.
Only seven of the 53 members of the current team have been to this point before in an Eagles jersey.
Head coach Nick Sirianni credits the veterans with “leading the team this entire time” and getting them to this point.
“They know what it’s like to get to this moment and not only get to this moment but win,” Sirianni said. “They’ve really supported what we have been talking about, which is ‘no distractions’ because that’s what they did when they won Super Bowl 52.”
Veteran Cox, a defensive tackle, said he helps teammates who haven’t played in a Super Bowl yet by “keeping them focused on the task at hand and reminding them to just do their job, play in and play out. Holding each other accountable and playing as one.”
Having experienced playing in a Super Bowl in the past has helped offensive tackle Johnson prepare for this Sunday’s big game.
“Five years ago, everything was new,” Johnson said. “The regimen and routine of what the week is, and I feel like this week, already having one under my belt and knowing what to expect, has made it a lot easier. This time around I feel like I am trying to enjoy my team more and really just have fun with the guys, to be honest.”
Graham said the work ethic of this group also has stood out as a similarity to the 2018 team.
“We sacrificed a lot to get to this point, so we have to make sure we keep that sacrifice up because we are not done with the job,” Graham said.
One thing all three veterans Cox, Graham and Johnson agreed on? The job is not yet done.
Elena Shklyar is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can connect her on Twitter and LinkedIn.