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Matt Slater: Urgency and intensity gets picked up in the postseason 01.08.13 at 2:25 pm ET
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Matt Slater. (AP)

Matt Slater. (AP)

FOXBORO — Special teams captain Matt Slater is one of 35 players on the Patriots’ 53-man roster who have postseason experience — Sunday will mark the sixth playoff game of his career. He said that unless you’ve been through it before, there’s no way to acclimate yourself to the speed and the urgency of the game when the postseason rolls around.

“We can try to preach to them all week and try to put it in their head but I know for me, until I got out there and actually felt it, I didn’t understand what it was like,” Slater said when asked how he tries to get the younger players ready for the playoffs.

“But we’ll be on those young guys all week to let them know, ‘Listen, this is not the regular season. This is not what you guys have experienced up until this point.’ But I think until they get out there the first couple series, the first couple plays, then they won’t really understand what it is.”

According to Slater, there’s a jump in intensity, speed and urgency that isn’t necessarily there in the regular season. If you’re making an SAT-level comparison, the preseason is to the regular season as the regular season is to the postseason.

“The preseason obviously is a different feel, and you go to the regular season and it’s a much different feel; the speed,” he said. “I think the jump is just as drastic from the regular season to the postseason. I think it’s a one-game season for everybody and nobody is holding anything back — not that we do that during the regular season — but it’s a drastic difference.”

As far as whether or not either team has an edge because of added playoff experience, Slater sounded dubious.

“I think it helps a little bit, but every year is a different year,” he said. “What happens in the regular season usually has no bearing on what happens in the postseason. I think it helps for guys that have played in the big games to know what to understand and expect as far as the speed of the game, the intensity of the game — it’s nothing like a regular season game.

“Like I said, every year is different, every team is different, every situation is different, so you can’t really rely on past experiences to kind of expect it to be the same when you get to the game this year.”

Here are a few highlights of the rest of his Q&A with the media:

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Matt Slater remembers Junior Seau as a passionate leader and icon of the game of football 05.03.12 at 12:53 pm ET
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Junior Seau (AP)

FOXBORO — As a football-loving kid growing up in Southern California, Matt Slater had two categories of football hero: his father Jackie, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Rams and Junior Seau. Then, there was everyone else.

“Junior Seau was a legend,” Slater said Thursday during a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. “Back to his time at USC, to his time with the Chargers. I grew up idolizing Junior.

“If you were a kid who loved football in Southern California, Junior Seau was right at the top of the list. He meant so much to the NFL in general, but to Southern California, he had a huge impact on that region.”

Slater had the unique opportunity to live out a dream — after he was drafted out of UCLA by the Patriots in 2008, he spent part of two seasons as a teammate of Seau.

“And then having a chance to play with him for two years and seeing how he was off the field — the type of man he was,” Slater said. “He was a leader that was second to none.”

Seau was found dead on Wednesday, a shocking and sad end to football life that touched thousands of people, particularly for those who knew him like Slater.

“He was so full of life and it just comes as a total shock,” Slater said. “Your heart really goes out to his family. You know, you saw his mom’s response. No mother should have to bury her son, so I just think we’re all in a state of shock right now.

“In here this morning, we’re just kind of … the guys who knew Junior and played with him are just sharing our experiences and memories of him. I know some of the Southern California guys, we’re just remembering his time at USC, and at the Chargers.”
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Rating the Roster, Part 1 02.10.12 at 1:02 am ET
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Chad Ochocinco checks in at No. 50. (AP)

With the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror — and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions — it seems like a good time to break down the current 53-man roster, taking a look at who might be the most valuable members of the franchise.

We arrived at this list by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles — loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.

A quick note: The 53 players were taken straight from New England’s postseason media guide, the most up-to-date listing available. That means injured players such as Andre Carter, Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, Dan Koppen and Ras-I Dowling, as well as practice squadders are not included for purposes of this exercise.

We start with No. 53 through No. 26.

53. Safety Sergio Brown: Fewer players slid down the depth chart as precipitously as Brown, who opened the season in a regular rotation at safety (he played every snap of a Week 3 loss to Buffalo) but saw virtually zero meaningful snaps after the Week 12 win over Philadelphia. His low point was a costly pass interference penalty in the regular-season loss to the Giants that set up the game-winning score.

52. Linebacker Gary Guyton: Guyton began the year as a starter, but like Brown, slid quickly down the depth chart. A solid locker room presence and good buddy of Jerod Mayo, he will almost certainly be elsewhere next season.

51. Safety Malcolm Williams: A defensive back who was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last April, he saw limited action this season as a special teamer, getting into a December win over the Redskins.

50. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco: The Patriots preach value, and there have been few instances of them getting less value for a player than New England got for Ochocinco in 2011. The wide receiver was the recipient of a $6 million base salary, and had just 15 catches on the season. Needless to say, if he does return, it will be with a reworked deal.

49. Defensive end Alex Silvestro: He will always be known to the world as The Guy Who Took Tiquan Underwood’s Spot The Day Before The Super Bowl, he’s someone the organization likes, but still needs more seasoning.

48. Defensive back Nathan Jones: A late-season pickup who bounced around the league before landing with the Patriots, he was thrown right into the action as soon as he showed up — four days after he was signed, he started at corner against the Colts. A veteran, if he is back next season, it will be to provide depth in the secondary.

47. Long snapper Danny Aiken: No problems this season from Aiken at the long snapper spot, as the New England specialists had a good season.

46. Offensive lineman Donald Thomas: A youngster out of UConn, he was used sparingly for a snap here or there throughout the course of the regular season until the regular-season finale. A youngster who provides good depth along the offensive line.

45. Linebacker Niko Koutouvides: A good complementary player, Koutouvides provided depth on special teams and the occasional snap on defense. (The sight of him split wide in coverage late in the year against the Colts was one of the more interesting images of the season.)

44. Fullback Lousaka Polite: A solid locker room presence in his relatively short time with the Patriots, he played just 24 snaps in his four games with New England, including 14 in the postseason. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do with Polite going forward, as they haven’t had a full-time, traditional fullback on the roster for a full season since Heath Evans in 2008.

43. Running back Shane Vereen: The rookie never seemed to recover after an early hamstring issue kept him on the shelf for an extended stretch (he was only involved in three games this past season), but it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full offseason in the facility. There may be some shuffling at the running back position this offseason (veteran Kevin Faulk could retire, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a free agent), and as a result, there could be some opportunities there for Vereen in 2012.

42. Quarterback Ryan Mallett: The rookie didn’t play at all in the regular season, but was a good teammate who, by all accounts, kept his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut. As has always been the case, it’s curious what the endgame will be between Mallett and the Patriots. Is he trade bait? Or is he in New England’s future plans?

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