St. Augustine, Fla. - The Philadelphia Eagles arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, site of Super Bowl XXXIX. It's been 24 years since the Eagles last appeared in a Super Bowl, but judging by the reaction of the team, the Eagles look every bit the part of a team that has been on the national stage before.
While it's the New England Patriots - Philadelphia's opponent on Sunday - who will be playing in their third Super Bowl in the last four years, the Eagles have chosen a single-minded approach to the game.
"It's business," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "You have to understand this is a business trip. The way that we wanted to approach it as a team is to treat it the same as we have done in previous weeks. We're on top of our game and we're ready to go."
The Eagles arrived Sunday to a warm reception as Philadelphia fans lined both sides of the street leading up to the Marriott Sawgrass Hotel, the NFC team headquarters for the next week. A crowd of roughly 300 fans also crowded near the front entrance of the hotel as the team buses pulled up.
At least for Sunday, the Eagles could enjoy being the toast of the town. When the calendar turns to Monday, it will be all business.
"It is [nice] today," Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid said. "And then when you get into the grind here it's going to be football. You get yourself right for the football game. We're not down here for vacation. We're down here playing a football game against a very good football team. I think the reality of that sets in once you get to the practice field and the meeting rooms and meetings and so on."
Philadelphia's approach shouldn't be surprising, considering Reid put the team through a full session of practices during its bye week after defeating Atlanta in the NFC Championship game. The Eagles will return to practice Monday, where they'll "fine-tune" the game plan that was installed last week.
Reid, who was a member of Mike Holmgren's staff with the Green Bay Packers that made six playoff appearances and defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, now draws upon those experiences with Philadelphia. Reid has a curfew in place for his team, but isn't blind to the fact he wants the players to enjoy the Super Bowl experience.
"We do have a curfew every night," said Reid. "We'll still give them plenty of time to enjoy themselves and the different events and Super Bowl experience. We still have to focus on being able to wake up on the morning to focus on the practice and meetings we have at hand."
One of the lingering questions of the week is how much of an impact the difference in experience will create. New England and Philadelphia are two of the NFL's best teams in recent play - the Eagles are 26-5 since Oct. 12 of 2003, bested only by the Patriots 29-2 mark - yet the Patriots have a large number of players with at least two appearances on the game's biggest stage, while the Eagles had come up short in the last three NFC Championships.
On the Super Bowl level, the Patriots have it. The Eagles don't.
"We obviously know they are the World Champions," Reid said. "They have done it a number of times and we have a lot of respect for them. We just have to get ourselves ready to play against a good football team and do the best job we possibly can getting ourselves ready and not worrying about all the other things."
While Reid spent much of his press conference speaking to detail-orientated topics regarding the Eagles' preparation, several Philadelphia veterans distinguished their role as the underdogs to the experienced Patriots.
"First of all, you definitely understand why we're underdogs" safety Brian Dawkins said. "We're playing the champions. And anytime the champions are still standing at the end, they're supposed to be the favorites. After that, you never go into a game saying that 'We hope we win this game.' That's not in my vocabulary. I expect to do it. That's not saying anything against them or what they've done, because I definitely respect them as a team. But your mindset as a player in any sport is that you're supposed to go in expecting to win the game."
If the Eagles are supporting the role of inferior underdog in "just-happy-to-be-here" mode, the picture they're painting represents anything but that face. For the first time in three years Philadelphia isn't favored in a playoff game, but as quarterback Donovan McNabb attests to, the Eagles are a loose, confident bunch for a reason.
"The one thing you need to understand is that the pressure isn't on us," McNabb said. "The pressure is on them. If they lose this game, then who knows what they'll be talking about next. If they lose this game, this will be the first loss for Brady. If they lose this game, this is the second loss for [Bill] Belichick. And we'll be 1-0 if we win this game, so we'll be undefeated and they can talk about our dynasty."