The void left by a Super Bowl LVII defeat isn't all that drove Jason Kelce to return to the Eagles for a 13th season as their starting center, but it was never long from his mind.
"I do think it played a factor," Kelce said Friday on The Rich Eisen Show. "I don't think it should. I wish it didn't. But I do think that when you go that far and get that close and it doesn't happen, I think your emotions and energy get going, and you want to do that. You know it's close, and you know the team is gonna be good next year as long as everybody stays healthy. We're returning a lot of pieces on offense. So, yeah, that all plays a factor.
"If it was a different situation, I don't know what the answer would be. I still think I would play."
After surprising as the league's last unbeaten team, avoiding its first loss until mid-November and not dropping another regular-season contest out of the 15 games started by quarterback Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia made a run to its fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Unlike the last, a victory for Kelce and Co. during the 2017 season, the trip fell short of a ring, but Kelce is right to think Philly's roster is primed to challenge for a return trip.
The offense, which ranked third in the NFL in both points and yards, returns its top five pass catchers in DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, Quez Watkins and Kenneth Gainwell, plus a QB who finished second in The Associated Press Most Valuable Player voting.
Whereas the biggest shuffle on the offensive side came in the running back room, with the dynamic but oft-injured Rashaad Penny sliding in for Miles Sanders (now in Carolina), the team's top-10 defense will have significant departures to contend with at every level.
But the biggest boon of all is Kelce staving off retirement. The 35-year-old has made four straight Pro Bowls, with six total, and his five career All-Pro seasons all came in the last six years. Whether it's orchestrating protections for Hurts or leading the charge in Philly's near-unstoppable QB sneak, he's the mighty cog in the center of the Eagles' O-line, and he's back on the warpath for a second Lombardi Trophy.
"The physical part, knock on wood wherever there is, I'm in pretty good shape for a guy going into his 13th year," said Kelce, who hasn't missed a start since 2014. "I've got some knee pain, ankle pain, this and that, but it's really what you're talking about -- the mental grind. The level of attention you have to have on a daily basis to do it right. Because part of my job is, one, being prepared myself. Two, being prepared to put everybody in the right position. Center, quarterback, middle linebacker and safety are the four spots on the field where you get to actively make other players play better or influence how they play.
"Just by the calls you make. Just by the communication that you do. To do that well requires attention in the meeting rooms, requires film study, requires communication throughout the week. And all of that takes energy and effort. And all of that ultimately on some levels gets distracted from other areas of my life. You have to really think whether you're willing to do that again.
"I was still in a position where I felt like for another year I wanted to do that. I do think losing the Super Bowl does play a factor, but I think ultimately, I still want to play football."