It was a day last week when Ty Law paid a visit to the Patriots' locker room after a few days of tests on his broken left foot had determined that the All-Pro cornerback would need surgery to repair damaged ligaments, thus ending his season.
"I just went around to the core guys in the room and shook their hands and told them I wasn't coming back because of the surgery, and wished them the best and told them I'd be with them in my thoughts and in my heart," Law said late Tuesday night via telephone. "I went to Tom [Brady] and I told him I wouldn't be around and he told me, `Ty, we'll go out there and try to get you another ring.' "
It has been a trying football year for Law, from the public squabble with the Patriots last spring, to a reconciliation with coach Bill Belichick, to a solid start to a season that came to an end when he broke the foot Oct. 31 in Pittsburgh.
There were weeks of trying to make it back onto the field, and coming close, only to realize there was something wrong beyond the break. Law's suspicions proved correct when an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed the ligament damage, which was corrected late last week in Baltimore.
Law has since returned to his mother's house outside of Pittsburgh, and will attend Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Steelers and sit in a private box. Law says if the Patriots get past the Steelers, "I'll buy me one of those motorized scooters so I can go up and down the sideline [at the Super Bowl] in Jacksonville [Fla.]. I might not be involved directly, but I want to be a part of this and be there for my teammates.
"All I can do, and what I have been doing, is supporting the guys the best I can. I'm calling the guys all the time trying get their spirits and confidence up, anything I can do to support them and feel a part of what's going on. I call Rodney [Harrison] a lot and I ask him, `What's the game plan?' because I can't wait to hear what it is and maybe I can offer something that will help one of our guys in the game.
"Right now, I don't think I could cover my mother."
Law has heard the whispers that perhaps he has played his final game in a Patriots uniform. He has a year remaining on his contract at $9.6 million, with a salary cap number that approaches $13 million. Some were surprised that Law was kept on the books for nearly a $10 million cap hit this season, but with the depth at cornerback, the team decided to keep Law for his 10th season.
"There's always hope," Law said of a possible future with the Patriots. "There could be some truth to the speculation, but what I'm hoping is there will be some mutual decision by the organization and me to work something out so I can stay here and be a part of that. You just never know what will happen, but I know nothing will happen if I don't get myself healthy. If I'm not healthy I won't be playing football. So my goal is to get going on the rehab as soon as I get cleared, and come back to training camp 100 percent and ready to go."
While Law did not disclose the magnitude of the ligament damage, or even admit to it, he said of returning to form, "I'm not worried about it. I trust the doctors and what they told me. I'll be back in time. It might take a while, but I'll be OK. I know my body. I've been through a couple of reconstructive shoulder surgeries, abdomen surgery, I tore up my groin, I've had ankle things. It's one more thing, but I've always come back faster and stronger than ever, and this is going to be the same situation. I'm probably hungrier now than ever to want to get back out there and try to win another championship."
Though his foot was broken, "my ability and my desire aren't broken. My confidence isn't broken. Just because you have an injury doesn't mean you're still not one of the best to play your position. And I know that's the case."
Which is why he will not let the injury devalue him. "I know the type of player I am," he said. "I know that and I think people who play this game know it."
And after all Law went through to reconcile with the Patriots after the contract squabble, he was incensed to receive a phone call one morning this week from a friend who told him, "You're fighting with the Patriots again?" "I'm laying here with my foot up and hearing that, and I was very upset by it," said Law. "It's inaccurate. Completely untrue. I've had absolutely no issues with the Patriots and the way they treated and diagnosed my foot. None. They know that. To have that reported in the newspaper and people trying to start things up again, was very unfair and inaccurate. I don't know why people have to do that. I'm here trying to recover after surgery and my teammates are trying to prepare for a big game."
Law said he hoped to get to the point this season where he was 70-75 percent and would be able to play. "I've played a lot in my career less than 100 percent, and if I felt I could do it, I would have," he said.
He tried to make it back Dec. 26 against Jets, even running before the game, in the hopes that he could contribute.
"The more we upped the workload, the more time I needed to take off, and I knew that wasn't a good sign," Law said. "I tried to come back in that game, but after I ran I just couldn't do it. When we retook the X-rays and found there was more than a broken foot, it wasn't a surprise to anyone. I kept telling Rodney and other guys that I wanted to play, and Rodney kept telling me, `We don't need you until the playoffs.' They were supportive."
Law has heard the talk about his services no longer being needed because the Patriots have gone 9-1 without him. All he said to that was, "Nobody is happier for the guys who have played in my place than me. To watch them grow week after week and learn to be top players on a winning team, that's really special. I root for each and every one of those guys. Randall [Gay], Asante [Samuel], Earthwind [Moreland], Troy [Brown], it's incredible what they've done. The coaches have done a great job putting them in position to succeed."
Law says he will occasionally offer advice on how to play some of the top receivers. "I'll say, `OK, here's what you've got to look for when you go up against Chad Johnson,' or `this is what you've got to do to Marvin Harrison,' things like that. They have enough coaching. They don't need me to give them more of that, but if I see something or I can help in a small way, I'll mention it to the guys."
It's difficult, he said, to watch, when all he wants to do is play. This time he will only watch and cheer.
"You know me," Law said. "I won't be quiet about it. And I want that ring. I really want that ring."