By HOWARD ULMAN, Associated Press
FOXBORO, Mass. (June 8, 2002 12:50 PM EDT) - Lawyer Milloy is finally getting a ring he wants to wear.
Not some runnerup trinket that reminds him of how he fell short in the 1997 Super Bowl and settled for an AFC championship ring that sits in a showcase at home.
Quarterback Tom Brady and his Patriots teammates will get their Super Bowl rings Sunday.AP Photo/Joe Giblin
The one he'll get Sunday night will be the prize that obsessed him since he and his New England Patriots finished second to the Green Bay Packers in his rookie year.
This one will be for beating the St. Louis Rams in this year's Super Bowl.
"I'm one of the captains of this team so I have to be able to keep these guys focused," he said. "As soon as we get the rings on Sunday, last year is over."
Between the private ring reception at a luxury hotel and the start of training camp on July 26, the Patriots will work out, knowing they're a target for teams wanting to knock off the champions.
The Patriots start a tough schedule at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9.
"Believe me, Pittsburgh is not thinking about last year," Milloy said before the Patriots ended their three-day minicamp Saturday. "They're thinking about that first Monday night game. So that's what we need to be thinking about."
At strong safety, Milloy is the team's physical and vocal leader. His drive helped them rebound from a 5-11 record in 2000 and a 1-3 start last year to beat the Rams 20-17.
Before the 24-17 AFC championship win in Pittsburgh, he bristled at the perception of the Patriots as a team of destiny. He said they worked very hard for their success.
After that victory, he said, "We feel that we match up against the Rams as well as any team in the league."
He had an interception against Pittsburgh then made seven tackles and defended three passes against St. Louis.
On Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 1, he carried the Super Bowl trophy from the left-field wall to the infield, walking alongside 22 teammates. Then all 23 threw out first pitches.
"Lawyer's the leader of this team, always has been," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who also played in the 1997 Super Bowl. "A lot of guys will listen to his voice. He's very intelligent and very intense out there. He lets you know how he feels."
Milloy knows other teams will be aiming to dethrone the Patriots. Eight of their 16 games are against teams that won at least 10 games last season and two more are against Buffalo, which won three games but traded with the Patriots for quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Even weaker clubs can draw motivation from New England's turnaround and gain confidence that they can do it, too.
"You hear about teams winning the Super Bowl, achieving the ultimate goal and then they slack off the next year because they're not as focused," Milloy said. "That's not our makeup."
So while Boston fans appreciate the Celtics' surprising rise to the Eastern Conference finals and the Red Sox's outstanding start, he's determined to keep the success going.
"Boston now is a very fun town and it's not just because of what we did," said Milloy, who has attended Red Sox and Celtics games. "It's the Celtics. It's the Bruins. It's the Red Sox."
It's the most successful year in Boston sports since 1986 when the Celtics won the NBA championship, the Patriots started their run to the Super Bowl and the Red Sox lost the World Series.
For Milloy, losing will always hurt as it did in 1997 against the Packers when he earned his tarnished jewelry.
"What drove me until I won the Super Bowl in February was that feeling of walking off the field with Brett Favre running around with the confetti going in my face and watching his celebration," Milloy said.
Now he knows how Favre felt.
"It's just a great, great feeling, and that's the feeling that I'm going to be striving for for the rest of my career," Milloy said.
Karen <------- fan of the World Champion New England Patriots
"I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith."