|Slater survives another cutdown in Foxboro||09.07.10 at 1:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — Since he arrived in Foxboro as a fifth-round pick out of UCLA in 2008, few players have displayed as much positional versatility as Matthew Slater.
He’s one of only a handful of players under Bill Belichick who has worn a white (offense) and blue (defense) jersey, working as both a wide receiver and defensive back on the practice field. In addition, he’s served many roles as a special teamer, including on kick coverage and as a gunner.
Despite some rough moments over the course of his two seasons in New England, Slater has survived. He was one of 10 players singled out for their attendance in the offseason conditioning program. In addition, he remains one of the fastest players on the team. Those two points, as well as his versatility, ultimately won his a spot on New England’s 53-man roster this season.
The 25-year-old acknowledges some people wonder how he’s managed to stick around as long as he has. (One poster on this site wrote: “Matthew Slater stinks. He must have blackmail photos of the Krafts to make the team.”) Slater, a serious man of faith, said that sort of thing is out of his hands.
“I’m a big man of faith, and I just thank God,” the 6-foot, 198-pounder said on Monday afternoon. “Everybody has their own reasons as to why I’m here, why I wouldn’t have been here. But in the end, it’s in God’s hands. I’m a firm believer in that. For whatever reason, he just chose to bless me to be here another year. My first response was, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ And now, it’s time to work.”
It was a rough summer for Slater, who missed extensive time because of an undisclosed injury. And in the days leading up to cuts, Slater seemed to sense that he was on the bubble, and even joked with reporters that he was asked to play right tackle, he’d do his best Jackie Slater impersonation — a shout out to his father, who is a Hall of Famer at the position.
While he said being raised in the culture of pro football helps when it comes to dealing with things like cutdown day, it’s the faith displayed by his father that has been an even bigger asset in his development as a football player.
“It has helped, being able to go to my Dad on things — he’s experienced it all,” Slater said. “But moreso, my Dad the man of faith that he is, sharing that with me and how he translated faith to football, has impacted me more than anything else. You guys have come to me asking the question, and I give you the same response every time: I attribute everything to God and His glory and His Goodness.
“It could have been me or anybody else they chose to keep, but for whatever reason, the Lord blessed me to be here.”
Slater said he is now completely over the injury he suffered, and is “confident” about where he is health-wise at this stage of the year.
“The training staff did a good job getting me back on the field,” he said. “I just have to go out there and try and get back on pace with my teammates and continue to work hard and just come out and work like there’s no tomorrow. That’s what I’ve had to do since I got here, and that’s what I’ll continue to do as long as I’m here.”
Regardless of how his critics feel about him, with the release of last year’s special teams captain Sam Aiken and veteran Pierre Woods, Slater is suddenly one of the most experienced special teamers the Patriots have on their roster. He was sad to see Woods and Aiken depart, saying he appreciated everything those players taught him.
“But now, we have to work with the guys that we have,” he said. “We have some very talented guys. Some good chemistry [and] a lot of speed. I think we’ll be fine going forward. We just have to get used to playing with one another. We have to go out there and work each and every day. We have to win football games. That’s what we’re here to do.”
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