By now most Patriots fans have seen the photos or video coverage from the Super Bowl champions recent visit to the White House to meet with President George Bush in the Rose Garden. But according to the Patriots third year tight end and two-time Super Bowl champion Daniel Graham the customary and much publicized ceremony with the President, one of the perks that comes along with reaching the highest level in all sports, was not the highlight of the Wednesday trip to the D.C. area.
Graham was part of a small Patriots contingent that flew to Washington earlier in the day to visit wounded soldiers at the National Naval Medical Center and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center before meeting with the President. Others in the group included Patriots owner Robert Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Larry Izzo, linebacker Tedy Bruschi, tackle Matt Light, center Dan Koppen and former backup quarterback Jim Miller.
]()The group saw things that, according to at least one of its members, they will never forget.
"It was a breathtaking experience," Graham said following a workout a Gillette Stadium one day removed from the emotional visit. "Seeing almost, I want to say little kids -- it seemed like no one was really over 23 and they are coming back from war. We call ourselves at war or in battle on Sundays, but it's nothing like what they are in. You are seeing guys who lost their legs. We take things for granted over here. They are over there risking their lives so we can feel protected over here. They are the true heroes. It was just a nice experience to visit with them."
And while the visit likely brought joy to some of the wounded soldiers, including a few that the tight end believes are now "converted Patriots fans," Graham was impressed by a few who showed incredible emotional strength despite their current situation.
"The thing I remember most is a couple of guys whose spirits were real high," Graham said. "You would have never known that something like that happened to them. They were keeping their spirits high. They were just there getting through rehab and trying to move on with their lives. There were couple of other guys where you just had to step back and just say a little prayer to the Lord thanking him that you have guys like this over there risking their lives so we can be free over here and just live a good life over here."
To say that the visit really put things in perspective for the group of professional athletes, a phrase that seems to be thrown around all too often these days, is an understatement. The things Graham saw during the visit give him a greater appreciation for what he has and will serve as sobering thoughts when he starts to feel down about aspects in his own everyday life.
"We don't have it bad over here and we take it for granted," Graham said. "People don't really know how good we have it until you do see something like that. I think it's a shame that that has to happen, but unfortunately that is part of war."
Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli was the recipient of the "JB Award for Executive Achievement" at the JB Awards - A Quest for Excellence held earlier this month. The event was part of the NFL Player's Association's annual awards ceremony and teamed up FOX's James Brown and the NFL Player's Association. A one-hour special of the awards banquet will be aired on FOX in early August. … The Patriots announced the official signing of free agent linebacker Monty Beisel late Thursday, while also re-signing recently released cornerback Hank Poteat and tight end Jed Weaver. The 26-year-old Beisel, a veteran of four seasons with the Chiefs, started nine of 11 games played last season in Kansas City. A strong special teams player, the 6-3, 238-pound Kansas State alum's career numbers include 58 special teams tackles to go along with 86 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in limited action on defense. … Former Patriot and Brown University star Sean Morey re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this week. … According to a report in Friday's Boston Herald New England's two remaining restricted free agents, wide receiver David Givens and defensive lineman Jarvis Green, are expected to sign their one-year, $1.43 million tenders today. Friday at 4 p.m. is the deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets. According to the Herald, both players "have drawn some feelers around the league" but no team has stepped to the plate with an offer sheet, apparently unwilling to give up the first-round pick compensation that could coincide with a potential signing. … Don't include Graham with those who believe that the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will hinder the New England offense in 2005. "Let me know the last time an offensive coordinator played a football game. We are going miss our offensive coordinator, but since I have been here if someone goes down the next person goes in and we keep moving." To the contrary, Graham thinks the return of a healthy Benjamin Watson could make the Patriots offense that much more dangerous. "He's going to be our secret weapon from the tight end spot that we are going to unleash this year. It's going to help me and it's going to help the whole offense having someone like Ben on the other side." … Starved football fans can see two NFL Europe games this weekend on NFL Network. Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT the network will have live coverage of the Rhein Fire at the Hamburg Sea Devils with the game being replayed at 8 p.m. On Sunday the network has the Frankfurt Galaxy at the Cologne Centurions at 3 p.m. and then again at 8 p.m.