GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Although the ring was even heavier than Charles Woodson expected, it felt just right on his hand.
Woodson and his Green Bay Packers teammates received their Super Bowl rings in a private ceremony at Lambeau Field on Thursday night, and the veteran cornerback's smile beamed just as brightly as the diamond-encrusted ring he was showing off to the cameras.
"I feel like it's my right to wear this ring," Woodson said. "I feel like I worked very hard playing this game. I feel like every time I go out on that field, I leave it all out there on the field. That's the way I've always played this game. I feel like I deserve to win a championship, I feel like it's my rightful place in history to be a Super Bowl champion."
Contact between players and teams generally is prohibited during the ongoing NFL lockout, but the Packers received special permission from the NFL to hold the ceremony.
The Super Bowl was more than four months ago, and the joy-sapping nature of the unresolved labor situation makes it seem even farther in the past. But at least for one night, the memories came rushing back and concerns about the lockout faded away.
"Everybody's been separated too long," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's great to see everybody on a personal level. Everybody's anxious to get going on the next journey."
The Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, then held a "Return to Titletown" celebration for fans at Lambeau Field the Tuesday after the game. But they haven't been together as a team since then because of the labor situation, which has forced the cancellation of team-organized offseason conditioning programs and workouts.
While several other teams have held informal player-organized, OTA-style workouts, the Packers haven't done so yet.
"Now, we have this ring, we'll enjoy it tonight," Woodson said. "And hopefully things will get moving along with the NFL and the lockout, and we can start preparing."
McCarthy put on a cowboy hat at one point in the evening — playfully ribbing Packers players who wore cowboy hats to a preseason luncheon last year, subtly but boldly announcing their intention to finish the season at the Super Bowl in North Texas.
"It was definitely everything we expected," McCarthy said of the ceremony. "The players, they were ecstatic about it, the way they were showing each other the ring, the platinum, the diamonds, the design, I think it's something everybody is excited about it."
The actual ceremony Thursday was closed to fans and the media, but Packers players gleefully posted notes and photos from the party on their Twitter accounts. Linebacker Nick Barnett dubbed it "bling bling day!" and posted a photo of a colorful drink he called a "ringtini."
The rings feature a Packers "G'' logo with 13 diamonds to symbolize each of the team's championships. Surrounding it are four more diamonds to symbolize its four Super Bowl wins.
"The one thing we knew was they wanted big, and they wanted 'bling,'" Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said. "So I think we were successful in that."
Woodson said he was most proud that one of his postgame speeches — urging his teammates to play with one mind, one goal, one purpose and one heart — inspired an inscription inside the ring. Still, he managed to keep his emotions in check.
"I held it back," Woodson said. "I cried enough this year, so I held it back. But it was definitely an emotional moment, a moment that I waited a long time for. And finally, it's here. I get to hold up a championship ring."
One piece of a traditional Super Bowl celebration still is missing. The Packers haven't been able to schedule a trip to the White House, and Murphy said the league's labor situation is holding it up.
"That really is kind of tied into getting some resolution on the labor situation," he said. "Players don't get many opportunities to go to the White House and I hope that the timing works out to be able to do that."
Murphy said Thursday's ceremony gave everyone a chance to think about their place in the team's history.
"It was a chance for all of us to come together and really celebrate a remarkable season," Murphy said. "I think a theme that a lot of people talked about was, now, we are part of the history and tradition of the Packers. There's not a team in the league that has more tradition and history than the Packers, and we're now a part of that."