On his left hand, New England wide receiver Irving Fryar wore his diamond-studded wedding band, which is just a year old. On his right hand, he wore two stitches, both two weeks old. He wore it all with the strangest pride.
"I'm pretty much numb to these things," Fryar said this morning in the Superdome, back with his team after reportedly being cut by a kitchen knife in a fight with his wife. "We're all human. I'm young. We've all made mistakes, and I'll make a lot more mistakes. As far as I'm concerned, it's behind me."
Fryar, who refused to discuss details of the domestic squabble in his first meeting with the national media, will practice this week and is expected to play with a plastic finger cast against the Chicago Bears Sunday in Super Bowl XX.
Fryar, 23, in his second year out of Nebraska, will not start at wide receiver, having been moved to third receiver and replaced by Stephen Starring.
But he is expected to return punts, his specialty. He led the National Football League this season with a 14.1-yard average, and his "game-breaking" ability is something Coach Raymond Berry enjoys seeing back in his lineup.
"I can catch the ball," Fryar said. "I'm fine. Fielding punts will be no different. I can catch the ball one-handed, I can catch it behind my back.
"I'm here. I'm here to play. I'm here to do my business."
And, as he made quite clear, that business has nothing to do with explanations of a highly publicized domestic squabble that forced him out of the Patriots' AFC championship game at Miami with a cut tendon in his right little finger.
"I'm not going to say nothing to none of you all," he said, looking into the faces of about 50 reporters. "I don't feel a man's personal life is anyone's business."
Several days after the Jan. 7 incident at his home in Easton, Mass., Fryar issued a statement that announced he and his wife Jacqueline, whom he married Jan. 11, 1985 and who is five months pregnant, will seek help from a marriage counselor, according to a Patriots spokesman.
"The truth has been printed in my statement," Fryar said today. "Not the whole truth, though, but all I want to say."
Last week, after the statement was released, Fryar continued to talk to reporters about the incident.
He said, among other things, "I didn't beat her and she didn't cut me."
But, according to a story in the Boston Globe, he did knock down his wife, who then got up, picked up a knife and cut her husband's right ring finger and right little finger.
Both Fryars went to the hospital. Irving Fryar received six stitches and was told his season was over. Jacqueline Fryar was treated for bruises and was told she and her baby were fine.
According to the Globe, it was the fourth time Fryar had had a physical altercation with his wife in the year they've been married.
Fryar said he believed he "was treated unfairly" by the media, but did not give specifics.
"It's distracting to the team, it's distracting to me," Fryar said. "I'm trying to put it in the past, and I'll try to keep it there."
Last week, Dr. Bert Zarins, the team doctor, told Fryar he could play in the Super Bowl.
"There was no risk of injurying myself," Fryar said. "That was the only worry."
For Fryar, it's as if that news ended a week-long nightmare. He said he couldn't make himself watch the AFC championship game. "I turned it on a couple times, but I had to turn it off," he said. A friend told him the score soon after the game ended.
"I still feel bad," Fryar said. "I still felt like I let my teammates down. I was supposed to be there and I wasn't."
Fryar said he nearly decided not to talk to the media this week, but said he enjoys being interviewed and went ahead with it anyway.
"I'm not gonna break, I'm a tough guy," he said. "I don't like the reason I've got this attention, but I'm here . . . .
"I feel no discomfort in my fingers," he said. "I feel discomfort with all these people around me."
Does he think people believe he's a bad person, he was asked.
"I think some people do," he said. "But I can look in the mirror at night and I can sleep at night."
He said his parents and his wife are arriving Thursday for the game. He said his teammates have been understanding and supportive. "They didn't ask questions," Fryar said. "They know me. Some guys came up to me and hugged me without saying anything. Others said, 'Welcome back, we need you, we missed you,' things like that."
That makes Fryar happy.
"They like me being back there," he said of returning punts. "They have confidence in me."
For a while, Fryar wasn't so sure. He said he and Berry walked past each other two times at practice last week before Berry called him in to tell him "they need me," Fryar said.
Berry, who said the only reason Fryar was not with the team for about a week was "medical reasons," said today he wasn't sure if Fryar knew how his coach felt.
"I probably haven't really told him how glad we are to have him back," Berry said. "You know how coaches are, we get off in a fog sometimes, and players start thinking, 'Gosh, he didn't like me today.'
"Well, I'll tell him again how I feel. I don't want to forget."