SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Patriots

January 29, 2012

Fans hold rally to send Pats off to Super Bowl

(Continued)

FOXBOROUGH —

"You guys are the reason why we're in the spot we're in, because we had home-field advantage throughout the end, and we were able to take advantage and now we're in the Super Bowl," said receiver Wes Welker. "That's what it's all about.

"I promise you all, all of these guys, with the way we're going to play this next Sunday, we're going to give it everything we've got out there and you're going to be proud to support the New England Patriots."

Linebacker Jerod Mayo touched on the difficult year endured by team owner Robert Kraft, whose wife, Myra, passed away July 20 after a battle with cancer. The team dedicated this season to her, wearing oval patches with the initials "MHK" on their uniforms right above their hearts.

Kraft, the final speaker, took the stage to chants of "MHK."

"At the beginning of the season, (Kraft's son and team president) Jonathan and I met with the team and told them that they would wear an MHK patch over their hearts," Kraft said. "And they really dedicated this season to her and all the volunteers in America who make this country great."

Liam Corbett, a fan clad in a blue Rob Gronkowski jersey, recalled attending his first Patriots Super Bowl send-off rally with his father in 2004, when New England beat the Carolina Panthers for the second of its three championships.

Now, with his father unable to attend due to an injury, he made the 50-mile trek from New Bedford with his wife, sister and two children, marveling at how the celebration morphed from roughly a couple hundred fans eight years ago to more than 20,000 on Sunday.

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