NEW ORLEANS — His mother now has the ring. His old teammates have the better memories. For Jeremy Shockey, all that's left is a haunting sense that he might have missed out on the chance of a lifetime.
You may recall when the New York Giants were pulling off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history two years ago, their loudmouth tight end was nowhere to be seen. Shockey's broken leg was in a cast, and his bruised ego was in denial.
Which might be why Shockey went ahead and tried to play in last week's NFC Championship Game on one good knee. It could be why he has skipped all of New Orleans' recent practices and why he flew to Birmingham, Ala., for a second medical opinion.
And it's pretty much why Shockey is planning to play in Super Bowl XLIV, pain be damned.
"I'll be fine. No worries, I'll be fine," Shockey said. "The foremost thing in my mind is winning a Super Bowl. I'm not going down to Miami to have a party. I've had plenty of those."
Shockey is standing in front of his locker at the Saints training facility as he talks about all of this. His extensive tattoos are hidden behind a long sleeve shirt. His long blond hair is piled beneath a Burberry bucket hat. He looks for all the world like some unassuming surfer dude who has stumbled into the wrong story.
Naturally, this is somewhat at odds with the flamboyant image that has followed Shockey from the University of Miami to the NFL. It doesn't mesh with the Shockey who once talked with disdain of the idea of a gay teammate on the Howard Stern show. And it doesn't fit with the Shockey who bragged of his sexual exploits in magazine stories.
Look at it this way:
When the Giants stormed through the postseason with three consecutive victories on the road against division winners before knocking off the Patriots in the Super Bowl, more than one person pointed out that the beginning of the hot streak coincided with Shockey's mid-December broken leg. As the theory goes, New York quarterback Eli Manning no longer had to worry about Shockey complaining he wasn't getting enough passes thrown in his direction.
Shockey didn't help the situation by distancing himself from the rest of the team during the postseason. He spent most of his time at his Miami home and didn't travel with the team on the charter to Arizona. He did not stay in the same hotel with the other injured reserve players and didn't sit with them in the stands.
Instead, Shockey watched his team win the Super Bowl while in the suite of owner Steve Tisch, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his daughter, and tennis great Roger Federer.
Later on, Shockey skipped the ticker tape parade in New York and did not join his teammates on a visit to the White House. A few months later, the four-time Pro Bowl tight end was traded to the Saints for second- and fifth-round draft picks.
"It was a great feeling to win that Super Bowl. To be a part of the team, even though I got hurt earlier in the year. It's just that the New York media made it sound like … ," Shockey's voice fades, and he does not complete the thought.
"A lot of people thought I was bitter because I didn't get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Hell, of course I was upset. What competitor wouldn't want to play in a game like that? But I've learned that God works in mysterious ways. Now I'll get a chance to play in the Super Bowl."
Shockey, 29, is acting as if there is no question he will be available for Sunday's game against the Colts. The Saints are optimistic, too, but the fact is Shockey has been battling toe and knee injuries for more than a month. He has played in only two of the past five games, catching four passes for 45 yards.
Officially, his knee injury is listed as a bruise. But the problem was severe enough that he went to Birmingham to visit famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews last week.
"There's a competitive side to him that makes him unique. Makes him different," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It's certainly a goal of his to get back in this game and be a participant rather than have to watch it, as tough as that would be. You know, people forget how important he was to that (Giants) team the year they won the Super Bowl."
And now, once again, Shockey has played an important role for an NFC champion team. And, once again, he is ailing in the days before the Super Bowl.
But this time, there isn't as much controversy swirling around Shockey. This time, no one is suggesting his team will be better off without him.
This time, Jeremy Shockey is planning to be on the field when his team shows up for the Super Bowl.