To the Giants, receiving their championship rings Wednesday night was not only a reward for winning Super Bowl XLVI, but a snapshot of their determination to celebrate more titles.
"Our thing now is we want to be a dynasty," defensive end Justin Tuck said after receiving his 14-karat ring. "We want to make it a dynasty."
Now that's a huge challenge. No team has won consecutive Super Bowls since New England in 2003 and 2004 and none has captured three in a row since … well, never. But the Giants have a strong nucleus of returning players, they've added both veteran and rookies with the potential to improve the team, they have outstanding coaching and, perhaps most critically, they have as much incentive to win as they did before they defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
Tuck is one of 13 players remaining on the team with rings from Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
"I think the second ring makes you that much hungrier," Tuck said. "Because you get there the first time, you are in awe. You are like, 'Oh God, this might not ever happen again.' And then you win a second one and you are like, 'Hey, maybe we can do something here.'"
Soon after receiving his Tiffany and Co. blue box housing his ring, Tuck, the team's defensive captain, enunciated his 2012 goal to Giants president John Mara.
"Justin said to Mr. Mara that no Giants player has three championships with the Giants," quarterback Eli Manning said.
The Giants are doing everything they can to change that. This is Week 5 of their offseason conditioning program. This morning just hours after receiving their rings, they were working on one of the practice fields at the Timex Performance Center.
Though they just slipped the rings on their fingers for the first time, the players have already placed the 2011 season on the backburner.
"After tonight I'm putting this thing away because I want to get another one," said offensive lineman David Diehl, who picked up his second ring. "I want this feeling again."
"I think the best part of this is I've been able to taste the blood," said safety Antrel Rolle, who earned his first ring. "I've tasted the blood and I definitely want to go back and win another one. I'm never complacent. I'm never going to be satisfied with just one."
Of course, the Giants face numerous obstacles as they look to finish the 2012 season with another title. Their schedule is brutal, with games against the other three NFC division winners (Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans), four more playoff teams (Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh) and six games against what looks to be an improved NFC East. Like all teams, they'll have to deal with injury issues along the way. And as defending champions, the Giants will be the biggest game on every opponent's schedule.
It's a tremendous challenge, but it's one the Giants embrace.
"I think we have great character on this team," Manning said. "I think we have guys who are committed to winning, to getting better. I think guys understand last year was a great success and understand we had to fight our tails off just to make the playoffs. A little play here, a little play there (and) we don't make the playoffs."
The Giants were the first team ever to win a Super Bowl after losing four consecutive games in the regular season. They dropped to 7-7 after a home loss to the Washington Redskins on December 18. Had they lost either of their final two regular season games – at the Jets or a home game against Dallas on New Year's Night – they would have been postseason outsiders instead of making one of the most inspired runs in franchise history.
"We understand we have improvements to make," Manning said. "We've got to get better as a team. We have to get better as an offense. We have to make the jump forward. We did it in the playoffs and played at a very high level against the best teams. That's great, and it's good to know we can do that, but we've got to be consistent throughout the whole season."
"With us, and personally myself," Rolle said, "having this feeling right now, it can definitely make me push the edge and the envelope a little bit and try to get everyone on the same page at an earlier point in time and not have such a roller-coaster season."
Coach Tom Coughlin is pleased the players are looking forward and not dwelling on the season for which they continue to be rewarded.
"I like that very much," Coughlin said. "It's a long haul. There's a lot of hard work, tremendous sacrifice that has to go into preparing. It's the greatest league in the world in terms of competitive balance and parity. I think everyone knows and understands that. We talk about it. …What we really want to do is bridge the values and the principles that we utilized in terms of the concept of team, the hard work, the coming together, the supporting one another, playing for one another, the love of one another – bridge all those great principles over from the Super Bowl XLVI championship into a new season."
With the ceremony now concluded, Coughlin will spend no more time discussing rings, as he prefers to focus on more immediate tasks. The players will take advantage of every opportunity to show off their new bling in public.
But whether the ring they received Wednesday was their first or second, the players who will wear a Giants uniform this season let it be known they have room for more.
"Most people don't have one, so it's a blessing that I could get one and the whole team got one," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "(We're going to) try to get another one, man. Don't nobody want (just) one."
"I'm kind of empty on all my fingers," running back Ahmad Bradshaw said. "I got one, I got this second one coming and hopefully I get my hands filled up."
"I remember last time we did this," Tuck said. "It definitely gave us more motivation to stay on top of the hill and hopefully we can."
*Tackle Kareem McKenzie, whose contract expired and who has not signed with any team, would like to continue his career. He has played 11 seasons – four with the Jets and seven with the Giants.
"I'm not retired yet,'' McKenzie said. "I still want to play, but, you know what, we'll go ahead and see what happens and if no one calls me, oh well, I guess I am (retired). No big deal to me. It's a great way to go out. I mean, you can't beat it. Go out as Super Bowl champion, win it two times in 11 years, you can't beat it. Not at all.''