Patriots hold send-off rally at Gillette

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The AFC champion New England Patriots held a send-off rally on Sunday afternoon in advance of the team's flight to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI.

According to a team spokesperson, there were an estimated 25,000 fans in attendance for the rally, which was held on the Gillette Stadium game field.

"It's a great honor to be representing the AFC and New England in the Super Bowl," coach Bill Belichick told the crowd at the event. "We're really excited about the trip, appreciate the support. I'm sure we'll see some of you out in Indy. Go Pats."

Players addressing the crowd were defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, linebacker Jerod Mayo, running back Kevin Faulk and quarterback Tom Brady.

"Coach Belichick told us not to come out here and talk too long," Branch said, before exciting the crowd by exclaiming "We're going to the Super Bowl!"

"We have the greatest fans in America. You guys have proved that year in and year out with your support," Brady said. "I wish I could take all you guys to Indy with us. We're going down there, and we're going down there for one reason. We're going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend."

"I want to thank you all for coming here today and giving us the warmest welcome in the history of this team, our send-off out to Indy, where we intend to do business," owner Robert Kraft said.

On the stage, the team displayed the painting commissioned by Patriots players in honor of Kraft's wife, Myra Kraft, who died last July.

"You all know I am a great believer in spirituality, and I know that a lot of you, just like our family have suffered losses over the last 12 months of dear ones," Kraft said. "And I want you to know that they are ardent Patriot fans, and they've all been smiling down on us over this past year.

"But especially this last game in this stadium I saw one smiling face along with your dear ones, making sure that things worked out the way we wanted at the end of the game," Kraft continued, referring to his late wife.

Players greeted fans along the edge of the seating area before exiting the field and boarding team buses.