JERSEY CITY - Ken Norton Jr. does not flash his Super Bowl rings around the players. He never slides it on surreptitiously or holds it up to the Seahawks as an example of the kind of glory that could await them at the end of this week. But it's not modesty that prevents him from doing so.
"The rings that I had in the old days don't look nothing like how big these rings are now,'' said Norton, a three-time Super Bowl champ with the Cowboys (twice) and the 49ers who is the linebackers coach for the Seahawks. "I don't know if my diamonds are even real. If I was to show them that ring, that might depress them . . . They'd be like: 'That's what we're going for?' ''
They are not. The winners of Super Bowl XLVIII undoubtedly will be presented with gargantuan, gem-encrusted mementos. But Norton, the first player to win three consecutive Super Bowls (thanks to the advent of free agency in 1994) said the players should not focus on the jewelry, but the feeling.
On a roster with no former Super Bowl participants and only one backup wide receiver who has ever been on a team that reached the Super Bowl, Norton's voice carries a lot more karats than his rings do when it comes to this matter.
"We're not going for the ring, we're really going to be the best team in the world,'' he said. "I don't even have to show you my rings because you know I have them. That's the whole thing right there. It's a matter of knowing that you are the best in the world at something. Not too many people can say that.''
What's that like?
"You have to be the best in the world,'' Norton said, unwilling, unable, or both, to describe the sensation. "I can't help you. That's just for those guys who are fortunate enough to do that. They have a conversation that other people can't have with them.''
The Seahawks are trying to get into that chat, and Norton thinks they have what it takes. He compared their defense to the 1992 Cowboys' top-rated unit that went up against a high-powered offense in Super Bowl XXVII. Dallas beat Jim Kelly's Bills, 52-17.
"[Both are] young, confident, very talented and really love playing ball,'' Norton said. "There are certain similarities. I hope the end result is similar as well.''
But perhaps no one more than Norton, who went to and won three straight, knows better the unspoken truth about these Super Bowl games. That they are all unique. We can compare them and rank them and try to figure them out, but there really is no relationship between any of them, from I all the way to XLVIII.
"Each time you go it's a different story, a different team, a different journey, a different theme that goes on,'' he said. "No Super Bowl is the same. This is different than one, different than two, different than three.''
The biggest difference is that Norton isn't playing, he's coaching.
But there is one common thread that runs through all of them, and that's the feeling of accomplishment. The glory of reaching the pinnacle of the profession.
"I know how [the players] should be feeling and I know it's a fantastic feeling,'' he said. "So I'm like, 'Hey, guys, enjoy this, this is pretty awesome!' Because you know what? You may never come back.''