MINNEAPOLIS -- The locker room opened and there was Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Super Bowl Champion T-shirt on and cigar in mouth, posing with the Lombardi Trophy. He lifted the bottle of champagne in his right hand and poured some over top of the trophy, ever so gently, before reaching out to hold the most coveted prize in football.
But he'd have to wait just another minute.
"Fletch, get me a cigar," said executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, wearing a suit, a Super Bowl hat with the "LII" emblazoned on the back, and a look of total satisfaction. He grabbed the trophy and lifted it above his head with his right hand -- an image that may be hung on the walls of the team's complex for decades, although it lasted just a few seconds. Roseman looked for someone to pass it off to and Cox called out to him, still waiting for a moment. He greeted the Lombardi with a kiss.
Roseman was off to deliver personal messages around the locker room. He went over to the stall of running back Darren Sproles, one of the most respected players in football. Sproles was one of several who had their season cut short because of an injury. He is scheduled to be a free agent. Roseman shook his hand, then grabbed the brim of his cap, pulling on it with affection as Sproles stared back at him, arms to his side, soaking in the message that was being delivered.
Meanwhile, in the far right corner of the locker room, the defensive backs were getting loose. Safety Malcolm Jenkins, wearing his game pants, a black cutoff shirt and a black sleeve on his right arm, tilted his head back and took a nice swig out of what looked like a bottle of Johnnie Walker before passing it on.
Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin walked up to a nearby reporter and said emphatically, "It doesn't matter how it goes down, it's just gotta go down," presumably talking about the Super Bowl win, and not the whisky. "Holy s---, that was deep. Did you get that?"
Undlin kept strolling and found Patrick Robinson, the once-maligned journeyman who overcame shaky play this summer to become one of the best slot corners in the game. The two embraced, and Robinson began to sob.
"I actually had a chance to talk to Carson on the field, on the podium last night," said coach Doug Pederson, of his injured quarterback. "Told him to just take this in. Enjoy this moment. ... I told him, 'You're a big, big part of why this team won this championship and this game,' and I told him, hopefully we'll be back in this game with him leading the way."
The team's theme song, Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares" started blaring out of the speakers and a large circle formed in the center of the room. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill jumped up on the bench. His teammate Mychal Kendricks sat on it. The rest danced, shouting out every word of the lyrics. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie inched his way over after an embrace with Alshon Jeffery, and did a quick rendition of the "Lurie" dance, shoulder-to-shoulder with Jenkins. Roseman threw an arm around Pederson, shared a laugh and slapped the coach in the chest three times fast.
"World champs, baby!" screamed guard Stefen Wisniewski.
When the roar of the celebration went down ever so slightly, Pederson gathered his players by the large dividing banner that read, "Super Bowl LII Champions," with a large Eagles logo underneath it.
"I can't tell you how happy I am. You are world champions, men," Pederson said. "Just look around. This is what you guys have done. This is what you have accomplished. We said before, an individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle. You did it. You did it against a fine football team. When you're asked, you're complimentary, but at the same time ... we are going to party."
The players roared.
He asked the team to take a knee in prayer before Jenkins addressed the team.
"I am so proud to be a part of this team, man," Jenkins began. "I'm telling you, I've been in the league for f---ing" nine years, I ain't never been a part of nothing like this. I've never seen nothing like this. First time bringing this thing back to Philly, man. First! I said it a few weeks ago, 'Be legendary.' This s--- is etched in stone. Hey, bring that up here [calling for the Lombardi Trophy, which was passed up through a sea of hands, the players gathering around it]. Every single person in this room is on this, man. It took every single one of you, bro, and we did it, despite what anybody said.
"We believed in each other every time something came up, and we fought harder, we loved more, we grinded harder and we had more fun doing it than anybody in this league. Hey, we started on family, we end it on family. One, two, three ...