Originally created 01/26/99

Broncos all covet second ring



FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Ray Crockett donned his Super Bowl ring, a stunning piece of jewelry to compliment his shorts and sneakers, and the cornerback made a point of rubbing it throughout his time with the media.

John Mobley brought his, too, but it's too cumbersome to go nightclubbing with and it didn't quite match his orange T-shirt. Mark Schlereth has his, Rod Smith his.

If there is any doubt as to the theme the Denver Broncos will rally around this Super Bowl XXXIII week of wonder, fullback Howard Griffith wrapped it up succinctly Monday.

"We want to win another one. We're here to get another ring," he said.

A year ago, Denver stood as an organization with four Super Bowl losses and a Hall of Fame quarterback missing a large chunk for his fabulous career. A win over the favored Green Bay Packers -- the "Win One For John" game -- turned these Broncos into greedy carnivores, with only a second drink from the winery capable of quenching their thirst.

They came to South Florida defenders of the crown coveted by 29 other franchises. They're the Super Bowl champs, favored by a touchdown to repeat, capable of commanding cameras and attention with every move they make.

They're allowed to rent lavish midnight blue Lamborghinis at $1,900 a day to ride around town, like receiver Willie Green did. They're allowed to show up late for scheduled meetings because they're "out riding around town," like linebacker Mobley did.

When you're the kings, you rule the kingdom. You set the rules. Right now the Broncos rule, and they know that their reign is being challenged by an upstart Falcons team never to reach this far before.

"The Falcons want what we've been enjoying this past year, and that's to be called world champions," Mobley said when he finally arrived at the team's hotel for interviews. "When I pull out my ring, I stare at it, I think of all the work and sweat you put into winning one, and all the rewards that come with it. And it makes me want to win another one."

Griffith makes a point to rub his ring every time he leaves his home. A Super Bowl ring is the Howard's Rock of professional football.

"Why do you think we play this game?" receiver Rod Smith asked. "We play to win rings, we play to win championships. This team knows how difficult it was to win the first one."

All this talk of rings and repeating drown out the three most compelling story lines this Super Bowl has presented so far: John Elway's possible final game; the simmering feud between Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan; and "Broadway" Ray and his off-the-cuff guarantee of a Falcon win.

The Broncos started 1998 with 13 consecutive wins and talk of a perfect season encircled them. Broncos defensive tackle Maa Tanuvasa would stare at his ring, which he says he never wore, to keep him grounded.

And when Denver lost back-to-back games in December at the New York Giants and at Miami, Tanuvasa said it was Elway who addressed his teammates and re-focused their priorities.

"He's a man of few words, but when he talks you have to listen to him," Tanuvasa said. "He got up in practice after the Miami game and said we all need to relax. Then he talked of the ring ceremony we had, and what a special feeling that day was, and how special it would be to have another one. John just brought everything into perspective."

The Broncos installed their game plan while in Denver, so Monday, Mike Shanahan's team ran through a light practice to reintroduce themselves to their strategies.

Training at the Dolphins facility in Davie, Fla., the Broncos ran through 25 offensive and 25 defensive plays, plus a touch-up on the two-minute drill.

"Last Friday I thought we had an average practice," said Shanahan, who will be coaching in his fifth Super Bowl, his second as a head coach.

"We needed our scout team to be more explosive, to have plays run at more of a game speed, and (Monday) I think we accomplished a lot of the things we set out to do."

Staff writer Rick Dorsey can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.