Now that he's gone, it's a lot easier to say it - at least in private.

The Eagles would never say it publicly, out of the respect they have for Donovan McNabb and what he had done for their franchise. But they're happy he's no longer here, happy to move on to what they believe will be the next best thing.

You could feel it at the NovaCare Complex on Friday for the first day of the post-McNabb minicamp. With Kevin Kolb now under center as the new starting quarterback, the page signaling the end of one era and the beginning of another had officially turned.

The changing of the quarterback was just one part - albeit a considerable one - of an Eagles makeover. They said goodbye this off-season not only to McNabb but also former mainstays such as running back Brian Westbrook and cornerback Sheldon Brown. In return, they have added 40-plus new faces and have gotten significantly younger.

"I don't know about a 'new life,' but I think the guys, they've got good energy," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "There's a lot of energy right now, not that there wasn't before. But there's a lot of energy."

For the first time since he was named head coach in 1999, Reid ran a practice without McNabb on his team. Many of the veterans admitted it was odd not seeing McNabb's No. 5 red practice jersey out on the field.

"I didn't think much of it when I was out there," Reid said. "You kind of get caught up in the practice, and you're looking at more details of what the guys are doing out there. I guess it was different, obviously, with him not being there."

A number of photos of McNabb - traded to the Redskins last month - that used to line the NovaCare walls have been replaced by those of Kolb's visage. Rookie quarterback Mike Kafka now occupies McNabb's familiar corner locker stall.

"It was different for me - absolutely," Kolb said. "Of course, the locker thing is one of the things that takes the longest. There's a rookie in his spot."

Kolb, however, is now under the spotlight once reserved for McNabb. He received a one-year contract extension Thursday that will pay him $12.26 million over the next two years. He is no longer the rookie or the backup or the quarterback in waiting.

"It's a little different, but I like it that way," Kolb said. "It puts a little more pressure on me to know what I'm doing and to make sure I'm right."

For a few players who asked not to be named, the McNabb show, and all his baggage, had become burdensome. In describing Kolb, they used words like fresh, all business, and genuine. Of course, the 25-year-old is playing with a blank slate.

"People [are] so used to seeing No. 5," fullback Leonard Weaver said. "That's a good friend of mine. I'm not dissing [McNabb] at all. But right now it's No. 4."

There have already been some notable changes. Last year at minicamp, McNabb did not talk to the media. During the last several seasons, he gave interviews only at the auditorium podium, not at his locker. Kolb, standing by his stall two down from the one McNabb once inhabited, was asked Friday about assuming a leadership role.

"I didn't want to overdo it," Kolb said. "It's something we do naturally as quarterbacks. What you do is what people are used to. They want to see you be yourself and not be something different."

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane
at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.