It's rare in the world of professional athletics when a team full of players gets truly excited about one particular happening. Such was the case Sunday night when the Patriots were momentarily breathless before becoming almost overwhelmed with excitement when presented with their Super Bowl champion rings in a ceremony at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
Owner Robert Kraft stood behind a podium and explained the significance of the various facets of the ring as hotel workers brought boxes to the individuals seated at tables around the room. The blue boxes with silver ribbon were then opened, unveiling wooden cases that housed the most impressive Super Bowl rings in NFL history.
Kraft explained the rings, manufactured by Jostens, were believed to be the heaviest in league history, weighing almost three ounces. The top of the rings is a combination of white gold and platinum with 143 diamonds throughout. Encircling the top are 42 diamonds, denoting the team's 42nd anniversary, with the words "World Champions" inscripted.
Two larger football-shaped diamonds are positioned on each side representing the team's two previous Super Bowl trips, and the top features the Patriots logo with a special cut red garnet and a blue sapphire surrounded with diamonds. Player names and numbers are raised on the left side of the rings while the right side features the Super Bowl logo and the 20-17 final score in the win over the Rams.
"This ring is a symbol of 42 years of waiting to be a part of this," Kraft said before delivering all the impressive details that went into them. "Thanks for helping make our dream come true. We showed everyone that we could handle adversity last season. Let's show everyone we know how to handle success next year and wind up right back here repeating this with a ring far better than this one."
The ceremony was the culmination of a whirlwind offseason for the Patriots that included victory parades throughout New England, a trip to the White House to meet President Bush and a host of other appearances for several team members.
The players arrived shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday evening and got the red carpet treatment as fans lined up along each side of the runway. Wide receiver David Patten was among the first to arrive and was looking forward to the night's events.
"This is a truly special thing," he said. "The ring reminds us of all the hard work we did all season to get here."
The players and coaches made their way into the reception area where dinner and their prizes awaited. Among those in attendance were Terrell Buckley, Matt Stevens, Brandon Mitchell, Riddick Parker and Roman Phifer, all of whom were members of the 2001 Patriots but have either signed elsewhere or remain unsigned.
Phifer's presence generated the most interest since many reports have indicated he will likely re-sign with the Patriots, but the linebacker didn't tip his hand. He told "Patriots Video News" that he was there to get his ring and that the media could speculate all they wanted about any hidden meanings.
Head Coach Bill Belichick opened the ceremony by thanking Kraft and all in attendance for all their hard work. Belichick called the players "the most special group he's ever been involved with" and said he has "never been prouder to be associated with a group of people."
He then introduced a short video clip featuring some of the highlights from the season, culminating, of course, with Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal in New Orleans, which drew a rousing response from the players. They also took time out occasionally during the video to razz Tom Brady, first as he stumbled in the end zone trying to spike the ball after his touchdown run in the snow against Oakland, and then when he turned his ankle in the AFC Championship at Pittsburgh.
Following the video, the players finally got what they came for and were, as Belichick's wife Debby noted, "like kids on Christmas morning." The response was immediate as Kraft's words were drowned out by the excitement of a group of deserving players.
Safety Lawyer Milloy, who Kraft said was instrumental in helping design the rings, proudly displayed his left hand for all to see. Wideout Troy Brown joined him as the two embraced as if the date was Feb. 3 and the site was the Superdome locker room all over again.
"This is something really special," Brown said. "You look at this thing and you realize why you do all that work. Winning championships is special and I hope we can get used to this kind of thing around here."
Linebacker Willie McGinest claimed he wasn't much of a ring person but had his in full view for all to admire. "I'll wear it on special occasions; I don't want to lose it," he said. "All of this doesn't really hit you until you get that ring on. We have coaches who have won them with other teams who wear them once in a while and you always look at them a say, "I wish I had one of those.' Now we do."
Among the notables not on hand were quarterback Drew Bledsoe, tight end Jermaine Wiggins, linebacker Bryan Cox – all of whom were invited but unable to attend – and wideout Terry Glenn, who was not.
After the festivities ended, Belichick took time to chat with the media while displaying his four rings (two Super Bowl rings from his New York Giants days, the 1996 AFC Champion ring for the Patriots and his latest piece of jewelry). The rest of his hand was barely visible with all the gold occupying his fingers. But Kraft still felt there was room for more.
"Bill still has six fingers left," the owner laughed. "We'll find a place for another one if we can get it."