ST. LOUIS -- The Philadelphia Eagles are new at this championship game stuff. The St. Louis Rams are loaded with players who have been this far - and beyond.
Not only do the Rams have 25 players who won the 2000 Super Bowl, but they also have two players who were with last year's champion Baltimore Ravens. This is an experienced bunch.
"We expected to get to this point with this team," said safety Kim Herring, who along with linebacker O.J. Brigance was with Baltimore a year ago. "Last year in Baltimore, we just hoped to get to the playoffs and then ride it out.
"This year, the team we have has an offense. No disrespect to last year's team, but we were all defense and won games 6-3 and 13-10. This year, it's more, 'Let's go blow people out.' That's our mentality."
A difficult mentality to match for a club playing Sunday in its first NFC championship game since 1980. The Eagles, by contrast, have seven players who have been this far - none, of course, with Philadelphia.
Could that be a significant disadvantage for St. Louis?
"We don't get caught up in what people say," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "People are going to count out who they want to count out.
"The level of confidence is at a high right now. That's because we have been playing well together and we are all coming together and knowing what our goal is and trying to do actions to get to that point. It's an exciting feeling for us."
This will be the third postseason game for Mike Martz as head coach of the Rams. Philadelphia's Andy Reid will be in his fifth. But both are in their first conference championship appearance as a head man.
Martz was the offensive coordinator during the Rams' run to the title two years ago, while Reid was an assistant coach with Green Bay.
Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, the league's MVP for the second time in three seasons, practiced Friday and said he will start against the Eagles, though he might have some pain from his sore ribs.
"It takes a little bit of your focus and you want to get as healthy as you possibly can," he said, "so you focus on that. But I'm ready to play."
Receiver Ricky Proehl, a 12-year veteran who has more NFL seasons than anyone on the Rams, believes his team has an edge.
"It does help," he said of playing in the Super Bowl two years ago. "Having a veteran football team with guys that have been through this definitely helps. We don't see any of it as a distraction; it's exciting. We're on a national stage and that's what you want as a football player. We're one step from going to the championship football game of the NFL."
None of the Rams believes it will be an easy step, particularly because the Eagles are 8-1 on the road, went into Chicago and easily handled the Bears in the second round of the playoffs, and have a stingy defense that allowed only 208 points this season.
Then, again, no Rams think they won't get to the big game in New Orleans, either.
"As a defensive unit, they catch your attention," said Proehl, who caught the touchdown pass against Tampa Bay that lifted the Rams into the Super Bowl. "They play hard and fast for 60 minutes and will be a challenge for us."
Remember this when considering the importance of having been there: The last three NFC champions - the Falcons, Rams and Giants - weren't exactly veterans at this sort of thing. Their rosters were almost totally devoid of Super Bowl experience.
"When you get on the field," Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said, "that stuff is forgotten."
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