FOXBORO, Mass. -- The symbol of inspiration is impossible to ignore, and its meaning carries a message that has stayed at the fore of the Patriots' minds throughout the 2011 season.
On game days, the Patriots can't set foot in their locker room without seeing a giant painting in memory of Myra Kraft, the late wife of owner Robert Kraft. The players gave the painting to Kraft after the Patriots' victory against the Dolphins in Week 16.
Earlier in the season, the players came together to decide they wanted to get a gift for Kraft, and left tackleMatt Light -- the third-longest tenured player on the team -- recommended a painter who could put together something meaningful.
The result: A large vertical painting with the Patriots' "Flying Elvis" logo over Myra's initials, "MHK," which overlook the players as they huddle with their hands together in unison. Below, the word "dedication" is written in capital letters.
"This whole season, we've had a little bit of extra motivation," special teams captain Matthew Slater said after Saturday's playoff victory against the Broncos. "We know what Mrs. Kraft meant to this organization, especially to Mr. Kraft. It's a very tough time for him and his family. He's really taking it hard. In a way, we've dedicated this season to being as successful as we can for her in her memory. She's a wonderful lady, has a tremendous legacy, so it is a little extra inspiration to see that picture when we come in here."
The Patriots have worn "MHK" patches on their jerseys all season, but the painting has taken a different type of meaning. It's been placed in the center of the locker room throughout the last two game days -- Week 17 against the Bills and Saturday against the Broncos -- and it's got a significant presence.
The players have said they know, just by looking at the painting, that this season has an added meaning.
"I think it's a great thing to have in here for what she represented, what that picture represents in honoring her," Slater said. "It says everything it needs to say, the painting itself, and the patches we've been playing with all season. We know she's with us in spirit. It means a lot to Mr. Kraft and his family, and it means a lot to us, also. Hopefully we can continue to have success for her."
Another captain, second-year cornerback Devin McCourty, added, "We know Mr. Kraft went through a lot, and she was a big part of this organization. She's been on our jerseys, and she's been in our hearts the whole season."