The Eagles are just days away from taking the field at The Linc for the NFC Championship game, and center Jason Kelce spoke to reporters on Thursday about how the team is staying focused, what he thinks of the 49ers defense, and also touched on his eventual retirement.
Kelce mentioned that on game day, his job is to communicate with QB Jalen Hurts and his teammates. He said that Hurts is always confident and composed, which is what makes him a special player.
Here’s what the captain had to say:
On staying focused this week
“The formula and everything is the same. You lock in during the week, you work hard, you practice hard, you work on your fundamentals and techniques, and you know, trust your coaching, and go out there and play.”
Kelce noted that they are where they are right now because they have great players, and great coaches, and they’re preparing to play a team that has the same things.
He talked again later on about how they veterans just keep emphasizing to the young guys the need to stay focused on the moment, and to not get too emotional, or to start looking to do things that are uncharacteristic. Kelce said that Nick Sirianni has done a good job harping on that this week, too.
“The stakes are higher, but you’re still playing the same game.”
But, the center also said that it’s not just the coaches or veterans, it’s everyone, he thinks they have a really, really good group across the board, even if they don’t have the same experience. Kelce quipped that you can’t have too many old guys out there or won’t have enough energy, and you can’t have too many young guys out there or they won’t know how to channel that energy — so he really likes the depth of the roster they have.
On the 49ers defense
Kelce acknowledged that this defense will be the best one they’ve faced all year, while pointing out that they’ve played some good ones, but the 49ers will probably be the top.
“Overall, they’re a very, very good unit. They don’t have any weaknesses to exploit. A lot of other teams have really strong players at specific spots, but in other areas you can kind of take advantage — there ain’t a whole lot of that on tape.
They got good players across the board. Great d-line, great linebackers, great DBs. They play fast, they play physical, they run around, they’re all in sync with each other. They’re well-coached by my man, DeMeco Ryans. So, they are a formidable group this week.”
When asked if the Eagles winning will have to come with good offensive line play, Kelce said it will take every single player doing their job to win on Sunday, not just the guys up front. He admitted that against the Giants, it was on the OL — there was a priority to stop the defensive front, and be able to cover their blitz packages, which they did. But against the 49ers, they are such a complete team, it’s going to take everyone.
On home-field advantage
Dallas Goedert mentioned earlier in the week that it was so loud in The Linc last weekend that they actually had to use a silent count a few times. Kelce said that they rep it both ways at this point, and while they prefer it being a little quieter when the offense is on the field for communication purposes, they know what it’s like to play in Philly and are prepared for both cases.
The veteran also said that he isn’t a fan of what the NFL is considering with regards to neutral site conference championship games — noting with a smile, he’d guess it’s because the league can make more money that way.
“A big part of the regular season being important is this bye week and that home-field [advantage] you get. They’ve already added another playoff game. They’ve already added another regular season game. And, I think it’s one of the really cool things about football is that the regular season is very important — you only get so many opportunities.”
Kelce said he actually really liked when the Super Bowl was up in New York one year and it was snowing and everyone complained, but to him, that’s what football should be. It should be played in the elements, and that should be a factor. One of the things he loves about football is that it’s about which team is better on any given day, in those specific circumstances.
On possible retirement
Kelce was asked if he’s thought about the possibility that Sunday’s game is his last in The Linc.
He talked about how three years ago, Doug Pederson’s last year, that kind of stuff was on his mind quite a bit. But, since then, he’s learned that he might never know when that last game’s going to come, so he thinks about it a little less.
“It’s always a chance that that’s going to be the situation, but you just try and think about the game, and focus on taking in the moment and being 100 percent there.”