Not a single starter from the Super Bowl is now with the Eagles. Quintin Mikell is the only position player remaining. He was a backup to strong safety Michael Lewis at the time. David Akers is still the dean of the special teams, which is a bit incredible the way placekickers come and go in the NFL.
That's it, however. The others have fallen away like leaves from a branch in the autumn. It is the natural order of things in professional football, where careers average less than four years, limited by injury or talent or the availability of someone younger and cheaper to take one's place. The biggest leaf fell in the off-season when Donovan McNabb departed after 11 seasons, partially for economic reasons but mostly because the franchise consensus was that the one Super Bowl trip was all he would muster.
The starters in that championship game who will be on the field in Cincinnati are Terrell Owens and Dhani Jones, an airhead and an air guitarist.
Owens wasn't the one who got tired in the Super Bowl, as he pointedly said of McNabb, but he was the one who symbolized the quick decline that followed the 2004 season. Jones is an average player with an above-average capacity for self-promotion. If he was missed upon being replaced in 2007 by Chris Gocong, it wasn't apparent.
Their presence Friday night is little more than a curiosity now, and most of the Eagles would be hard-pressed to know that Jones once played for their team. Owens, well, they probably all know that.
The current group doesn't seem to care all that much about the past, particularly since most of them don't go back very far. The Eagles, according to those who count such things, went into training camp with the fourth-youngest roster in the league. Fifty-six of the 80 players in camp came into the league in 2007 or later. Even a graybeard like Mikell, who played in that long-ago Super Bowl, doesn't turn 30 until four days after the season opener.
"That team was dismantled," Mikell said during camp. "It's a new team."
Whether it is also a good team is unknown, even to those around it. Reid kept the Eagles bunkered at Lehigh for about a week longer than usual, and that's not a coincidence. He wanted to drill the young team rigorously and he did, trying to lessen the number of youthful mistakes the players will make during the season. Not everyone who gets paid to play football is a professional, and Reid wanted to instill those qualities, too.
"It's important you build a strong foundation and you kind of find out about the guys that are going to be with you later in the year," Reid said at Lehigh. "When you get to that last quarter of the season and you're in striking distance, you're going to be beat up and sore. Whether you have this camp or you don't, there are certain guys that will sit out and you kind of find that out here. You find out who's going to be there and who's not going to be."
Which also has something to do with who's not going to be there after the Sept. 4 cut to 53 players. Regardless of who remains, camp has shown that the Eagles are a tighter bunch than in the past. Part of it, as quarterback Kevin Kolb said, is because they have mostly gone through the same things in the last few seasons, waiting their turns and coming up slowly through the ranks.
It is a team without superstars and, being on equal footing, they don't have to worry about stepping on anyone's toes. And they also don't have to worry about a grumpy veteran blaming a loss on inexperience, which really didn't play well in the locker room when McNabb did so.
"I think they like to be around each other," Reid said, and that counts for something. Not everything, but something.
"The games are what you're measured on and this is preparation for those games," Reid said. "But I think if you're going to measure success, we'll do that later."
He was talking about whether training camp has been a success, but the answer applies to the whole scope of changes made by the team. It's all about the games and, ultimately, all about getting back to The Game.
Six years is a long time in a league that changes so quickly, even if a couple of old reminders of the last Super Bowl appearance will be on the field in Cincinnati. The Eagles, however, are finally a team that isn't still thinking about that last Super Bowl. They seem to be worrying more about the next one.
Eagles at Bengals
8 p.m. (Fox29)
In Cincinnati, the Birds will see a better opponent than last week. D3.
Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or email@example.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.