For the second time in three years Christmas came early for the New England Patriots. And Owner Robert Kraft was all too happy to play the role of Santa Claus once again.
The 2003 champs descended upon his Brookline home on Sunday to receive their gifts -- Super Bowl rings even more impressive than the ones they took home three years ago. Kraft personally greeted each of his guests at the door with a smile, handshake and hug as the players had the look of anxious children waiting to open their presents.
Three years ago, Kraft jokingly referred to the prize as a "three-barstool ring," meaning it could be plainly seen from three barstools away. He called this one a "six-barstool ring" and with good reason. The current symbol of excellence is billed as the biggest Super Bowl ring ever created, weighing in at 3.8 ounces, which is approximately 33 percent larger than the 2001 version. Like the first one, it is cast in 14-carat white gold, making the Patriots two rings the only ones to make that claim.
"We wanted to do something special after winning two Super Bowls in the last three years," a beaming Kraft said after the ceremony. "We wanted something unique and judging from the reaction we got in there I think we did it."
The ring, manufactured once again by Jostens, features 104 diamonds, or a little more than five carats, which is the largest total in history. The crest is shaped in the form of Gillette Stadium with the words "World" and "Champions" adorning the top and bottom. Tapered baguettes and princess-cut diamonds represent Patriots fans in the stands. Two sculpted Lombardi Trophies made of diamonds create the ring's centerpiece with a Patriots logo made of red garnet and blue sapphire surrounded by 32 full-cut diamonds, which represent the 32 NFL teams, laying across.
"Like Mr. Kraft said, it's the best ring in the NFL," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.
"This is what a champion is all about," added defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
"Wide receiver Troy Brown called the ring "the biggest and the baddest," adding that he was ready for a bar fight with his two rings on his left hand.
As was the case in 2001, the ring is loaded with symbolism from the season. The top of the ring's bezel includes 15 full-cut diamonds, representing the season-ending winning streak. The bottom has 12 full-cut diamonds, which represents the team's 12-0 home record in 2003. The side features the Super Bowl XXXVIII logo with the final score underneath Patriots and Panthers logos.
"Do you believe this thing?" said safety Rodney Harrison in amazement. "Look at all the stuff they got on here. My name is there, the lighthouse, the 15-game winning streak … they put an awful lot into this and it's so much more than I ever dreamed it would be. It's not as exciting as my son being born, but it's up there."
Several players no longer with the Patriots were on hand including Damien Woody, Larry Centers, Chris Akins and Rick Lyle. Akins joked with reporters as he tried to make his way through the maze of cameras that "just because he plays for the Dolphins now doesn't mean he should be locked in."
Bobby Hamilton and Ted Washington, who remain teammates as free agents signees in Oakland, arrived together with Washington turning toward the media to deliver his trademark "morning" line as he entered the house. Washington, incidentally, will take home the largest ring as he was sized at 17.5. Ty Warren wasn't far behind with a 17.
Tom Brady arrived in a black stretch limousine with girlfriend Bridget Moynahan and his father, Tom Sr., and sister Julie. Coach Bill Belichick was among the last to arrive, pulling up to the house around 7 p.m. with his wife, Debby.
Cornerback Ty Law laid down a challenge for Kraft to design an even more impressive ring when he and his teammates win another Super Bowl saying they "were going to get one for the pinky." Seymour added that he'd need another one because he gave the first one to his late father while this one will go to his mother. The owner was all too happy to accept that challenge, assuring his players he'd get the job done.