A new coach, probably a new quarterback, and a young roster, too, all may have worked for Jason Kelce in previous seasons, but maybe not so much now, at the age of 33 and after 10 years of service as the Eagles All-Pro center, during which he has missed just 18 of a possible 160 games.
It wasn’t so bad when he was in his 20s, rolling from coaches Andy Reid to Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson and snapping the ball for a variety of quarterbacks from Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, and Carson Wentz.
Now, well, he was on the Chris Long Green Light Podcast on Friday, and talk of retirement came up.
After a few softball questions that had nothing to do with sports, Long lobbed another easy pitch to his former teammate, asking him what he was currently worried about.
Kelce’s one-word answer: “Retirement.”
That was it. One word to stoke the issue again.
If Kelce calls it a career, the Eagles’ options to take over at center appear limited.
Isaac Seumalo could move there from left guard.
Nate Herbig has taken practice reps at the position but has never played a regular-season game there.
Luke Juriga was Kelce backup last year as an undrafted free agent and saw 14 offensive snaps as a rookie.
Also, the draft has some good center prospects the Eagles could take.
Right now, though, Kelce is the center – subject to change.
He said last spring that the decision to return for 2020 was an easy one after a couple of years of giving it more serious contemplation.
Sounds like he is giving it serious contemplation again in this offseason.
“For me, (2019), I very much felt comfortable with the way the season went,” said Kelce on May 14. “I was pretty solidified early on that I was going to play another season and I let the team know that very quickly.
“Physically it was one of the easier seasons for me. I feel good. I have my little stuff I have to do here and there and that’s annoying but definitely manageable.”
He made the 2019 decision knowing Doug Pederson would be back as the coach and Carson Wentz was entrenched as the superstar quarterback coming off four straight wins to end the regular season and put the Eagles into the playoffs for a third straight year.
So much has changed since then, obviously.
His new head coach, Nick Sirianni, is just six years older than him, the quarterback is, well, who knows, and owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated that this will be a retooling season with, presumably, a roster of rookies from this spring’s draft and a heavy dose of second- and third-year players.
It is a long grind getting ready for an NFL season, a lot of behind-the-scenes workouts that, outside maybe a few short workout clips on social media, fans do not see.
“It’s grueling physically and more than people realize,” said Kelce. “It’s grueling mentally, especially if you put the effort and energy required to be right into it. That takes its toll.
“It’s hard to continue to do that. You want to reflect after you cooled down and gotten back to normal to see if you can do that again and if you give that same emotion that same energy that’s required to play at a high level to your teammates and to your coaches and to the city.”
If he does choose to retire, he said he would make the decision well known.
Who knows, maybe he even digs the Mummers costume out of the closet, the one he wore to give his legendary speech at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the Eagles’ championship parade in February of 2018.
“I can’t say this enough when I’ve decided to retire you guys will know and it will be a very loud and emphatic statement,” he said.
“It’s going to be made most likely, barring some physical ailment that comes up in the season, but the retirement’s going to happen before training camp or before free agency, before the draft, it’s not going to sprung out of nowhere. That’s not my goal.”
For now, it’s a waiting game.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.