Several thousand Patriots fans poured into Gillette Stadium today to see the team off before they headed to Indianapolis this afternoon to prepare for the Super Bowl. Patriots players wore suits as they walked onto the field to address the crowd, and several of them spoke to the seriousness of the trip they were about to undertake.
"We're going down here on a business trip, and hopefully we're bringing back a championship," said linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the crowd very briefly, and he stressed to his players beforehand to keep their speeches short as well.
"We're really excited about the trip," said Belichick. "Appreciate the support. I'm sure we'll see some of you out in Indy. Go Pats."
The event was hosted by Patriots radio play-by-play announcer Gil Santos, and about half a dozen Patriots players addressed the crowd, as did Patriots chairman Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft. The event was particularly poignant for the Kraft family after Myra Kraft passed away last year after a long battle with cancer.
Fans chanted "M-H-K" as Robert Kraft approached the podium.
"You all know I am a great believer in spirituality" said Kraft. "I know that a lot of you, just like our family, have suffered losses over the last 12 months of dear ones. I want you to know that they are ardent Patriots fans. And they've all been smiling down on us over this past year. But especially this last game in this stadium, I saw one smiling face along with your dear ones, making sure that things worked out the way we wanted at the end of the game."
The Patriots have dedicated their season to Kraft and to her live of service, and the team selected 10 New England residents from service industries across New England to go to the Super Bowl.
Kevin Faulk, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker, Deoin Branch, and Tom Brady also addressed the crowd.
"It's been a long, exciting, tough year," said Wilfork. "Hopefully we go down to Indy and have one more win in us."
Brady -- who is quarterbacking the Patriots to his fifth Super Bowl in 11 seasons -- said, "We're going down there for one reason. We're going to give it our best. Hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend."
The Patriots are expected to arrive in Indianapolis around 5:15 p.m. Eastern. They Giants are scheduled to arrive Monday.