|Matthew Slater supports Nate Ebner by wearing No. 43 jersey at Patriots practice||07.28.16 at 2:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When taking attendance at the first Patriots training camp practice, it was strange seeing a No. 43 jersey on the field considering Nate Ebner is off preparing with the U.S. Rugby team for the upcoming Summer Olympics.
Ebner wasn’t back with the Patriots, instead it was special teams captain Matthew Slater showing his support for his fellow core special-teamer.
“I have a lot of respect for that guy,” Slater said. “I wanted to show him a little love today. This is supporting him as he chases his dream.”
Added Slater: “He might be a little bit surprised. I didn’t give him the heads-up. Hopefully he doesn’t get mad I had his jersey on.”
Even though Ebner hasn’t been able to be at Gillette Stadium with the rest of his team, Slater has made sure to keep him up to speed with what he’s missed.
“He’s living his dream, and not a lot of people get that opportunity to be an Olympian,” Slater said. “I gave him the install from (Wednesday). He knows what we did (Thursday morning). I’m sure I’ll give him the install (Thursday night). We know when he comes back here, he’ll be all-in here, but he needs to focus on what he’s doing now, and we understand that.”
It’s likely Ebner returns in the middle of August and he’s expected to be ready for the 2016 season. The entire team is pulling for him to bring back a gold medal.
“It’s unbelievable,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “He’s a great worker, hard worker, Nate Ebner. Always on top of his game out here. I know he played rugby before he came to the NFL, so huge props to him. Amazing accomplishment, and best of luck to him. Hopefully he brings home that gold and then (rejoins) our team. That would be awesome.”
|History Lesson: Bill Belichick’s coaching longevity rooted in consistency, adaptability||07.27.16 at 5:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — To give you some perspective as to just how long Bill Belichick has been in the NFL, when the Patriots meet the Dolphins this year, Belichick will square off against a head coach in 38-year-old Adam Gase who wasn’t even born when Belichick took his first job as an assistant in the league.
This week marks the start of Belichick’s 42nd consecutive year in the National Football League, the last 17 of which have come as head coach of the Patriots. The longest-tenured head coach in the league with his current team (the closest is Cincy’s Marvin Lewis, who took over the Bengals in 2003), it’s a remarkable run for any coach in the NFL.
When it comes to stacking his resume against some of the greats of the game, entering the 2016 season, he’s at 223 career wins as a head coach, tops among all active coaches and fourth on the all-time list. This season, he’ll move past Curly Lambeau (at 226, fourth) on the all-time wins list, and will almost certainly pass Tom Landry (third with 250 career victories) before he’s done. While you never say never, it would probably take at least another decade for him to come anywhere near the likes of Don Shula (first, 328 career wins) or George Halas (second with 318 wins).
The 64-year-old Belichick, who first went to training camp as an special assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975 at the age of 23, has been working in the league ever since. He said that when it comes to coaching, there’s some carryover in preparation and approach. But in his experience, his approach over the previous 41 seasons has been to take each one as its own animal.
“Fundamentally I think a lot of things are the same; things you have to do in camp in order to prepare for a season,” he said Wednesday at the dawn of a new season. “But each year is different. Players are different, teams we play are different, things change in the league, there are some rule modifications, or whatever. Things like that. So, every year is different and the chemistry – each team is different. Even with some of the same players there’s still always a little bit of a different mix.”
According to one of his most senior assistants, Belichick’s consistent approach and a willingness to adapt have been key in getting him to this point.
|Devin McCourty won’t be teasing Tom Brady about Deflategate: ‘Doubt there would be much joking about that’||at 4:30 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There are things veteran players can do to other veteran players, especially at the beginning of training camp, to keep things loose and break up the monotony of training camp.
Busting Tom Brady about Deflategate is not on the list for Devin McCourty.
The Patriots seven-year veteran safety, sporting a Captain America “Trust Me” T-shirt at the podium, was asked Wednesday, the day before the first practice, if he might joke around with No. 12 about him having to sit out the first four games.
“No, the first day, I don’t think we talk about anything to do with football,” McCourty said. “I think it’s just guys catching up, seeing how families are doing and everything like that. But I doubt there would be much joking about that.”
Indeed, the Patriots were all business on Wednesday, as coaches held positional meetings with players on the eve of the first practice of camp.
The business of getting along without Tom Brady for the first four games was front and center, with players like McCourty and Matthew Slater the first to speak since Brady lost his appeal and decided to not pursue any further litigation.
“I think it’s [an] adjustment. Obviously, you can’t take the field without a guy like that and think you’re just going to go out there and pick up where you left off last year and fall right into stride, but I think we have a lot of good players,” McCourty said. “We have two other quarterbacks that have been very competitive. Jimmy [Garoppolo] has been here a couple of years now, so I think as a team we’ll just come together, go out there and figure out a way to win. That’s what it comes down to; we can’t stick on that subject, just prepare and get ready to play.”
Slater repeated the “adjustment” theme.
“It’s obviously going to be an adjustment,” Slater said. “We’re definitely thankful that he’s around now, and I think he brings so much to the table. There’s so much that we can learn from having him around, and obviously we all want to have a good training camp, it’s the foundation upon which the season is built, so I think he would definitely include himself in that group. Needless to say, there will definitely be an adjustment period for us in dealing with that, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time.”
Is the defense feeling more pressure to start strong, knowing the team will begin the season without Tom Brady leading the offense?
“I think from the outside, everyone will say that, but for us as a defense, even when you play with the greatest quarterback, we don’t go out there saying, ‘We only have to play OK because Tom [Brady] is here.’ We always want to play good football, go out there and really find out who we’ll be as a defense,” McCourty said. “It starts [Thursday] at practice with attitude, toughness, running to the ball, condition. I think for us as a defense, we want to be a dominating defense no matter what the situation is and no matter who is out there on offense. We always kind of take the mentality and attitude that we have to go out there and play defense no matter if the offense is scoring touchdowns, if they’re not scoring touchdowns. I think if we can develop as individual units, that’s what makes us better as a whole.”
|Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 19, Matthew Slater||07.03.16 at 11:00 am ET|
As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.
19. Special teamer Matthew Slater
Weight: 205 pounds
Resume: A fifth-round pick of the Patriots out of UCLA in 2008, he was a perpetual bubble candidate his first few seasons in the league because there wasn’t really a spot for him on the roster. Even now, he’s listed as a wide receiver, but that’s only because you simply can’t list someone as a pure special teamer. But entering his ninth year in the league, he’s evolved into become one of the best special teamers in the NFL. (If you don’t believe our assessment — or care to drop the cash to watch the All-22 coaches film on a weekly basis — check out what fellow NFL special teamer Lorenzo Alexander had to say about Slater and his work here.) Possessed with lights-out speed and a gonzo approach as a gunner, the five-time Pro Bowler has grown into one of Bill Belichick’s two favorite special teamers of all-time. (The second is Larry Izzo.) From a numbers standpoint, he led the team in special teams tackles three of the four seasons between 2010 and 2014: 21 in 2010, 17 in 2011, 20 in 2012 and 14 special teams tackles in 2014.
Why we ranked him here: Few players are more respected in the locker room than Slater, but it goes beyond that. Seriously, if you’re one of the people out there scratching your head and trying to figure out why he’s here, go and watch the game film sometime. When it comes to special teams, there is no one in the league right now who is more consistently as quick, disruptive and more intelligent than Slater. If he was taken by another team that didn’t put such a premium on special teams, given what happened to him in his first two years, there’s the very real chance he’d either be out of the league or end up as a consummate NFL journeyman. But instead, New England’s perennial special teams captain grown into a foundational element for one of the best franchises in the league.
Quote: “He’s a great example for all of us both on and off the field. Nobody works harder and puts more into it. Matthew really understands what his role on the team is, he’s embraced it and he’s turned it into a great career for himself. He definitely imparts his experience to other guys, not just rookies, although he does it to them, too, but really he’s a great inspiration for all of us and all the players in how professional he is, the way he goes about his business and how committed he is to the team. He gives us tremendous leadership.” — Bill Belichick on Matthew Slater, 11/26/15
Random note: The Slater family — Matt and his Hall of Fame father Jackie — have a combined 12 Pro Bowl appearances between them. When it comes to father-son duos, only the Manning family (Archie and Peyton) have more with 16.
|Hall of Famer Jackie Slater: I initially tried to keep son Matt away from football||06.21.16 at 2:00 pm ET|
Matthew Slater has carved out a nice niche as the Patriots special teams captain. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder has been a three-time All-Pro, emerging as one of the best special teamers in the game.
But his father, Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, said this week he tried to do everything he could to steer him away from the game at an early age.
“I did everything to discourage the football end of sports,” Jackie said on the Talk of Fame Network, “but he just kept gravitating back toward it. Basketball he played. Soccer he played. Those sports just weren’t exciting enough for him. He liked a lot of action.
“I just didn’t think he was big enough,” Jackie added. “When I was 13 years old I was six feet tall and I weighed 245. And I was wearing a size-42 in the waist and a 32 in the inseam. He wasn’t headed in that direction at all, and I’ve always seen football as a big man’s game — always felt a big man is better than a good little man.”
He said: “So I didn’t think he was going to be able to fit in, and I certainly wasn’t going to be able to help him as a little guy because I didn’t know anything about what he was doing. So it was just kind of my deal to discourage him and encourage him in a different direction.”
While Jackie is a Hall of Famer and one of the most respected players in recent NFL history, Matthew has been able to one-up his Dad in terms of Super Bowl wins. It’s one of several reasons he remains proud of his son and what he’s been able to accomplish in his eight-year career with the Patriots.
“If you had told me I’d be watching that young man do some of the things he’s doing,” Jackie said, “I never would’ve believed it.”
|Bryan Stork, Woodrow Hamilton among those involved in Wednesday practice scrap||06.08.16 at 3:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Toward the end of Wednesday’s minicamp session, there was a scrap that appeared to involve offensive lineman Bryan Stork, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton.
Devin McCourty could be seen shepherding Hamilton away from the pile, while Matthew Slater was doing the same thing with Hightower, and it looked like Hamilton and Stork were sent off to run.
After practice, coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t shed any light on the skirmish, but special teams captain Matthew Slater acknowledged that when it comes to football, sometimes emotions can run a little hot.
“Football is an emotional game, and your emotions are going to get the best of you at times. Especially when we’re out here competing, competing for a job,” said Slater. “So we like to see the competitiveness in the practices, but we have to be smart. We all know that numbers are limited at this level, and we have to take care of one another as we practice. We have to be smart at that. At the same time, you like the competitive nature of practice. It’s a double-edged sword.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Malcom Brown on family life, being a Patriots leader: ‘It makes you not do dumb things’||06.02.16 at 9:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In today’s NFL, it’s easy to make bad mistakes.
Just in the last year, there was Jason Pierre-Paul on July 4, 2015 and his ill-fated experiment with fireworks and Chandler Jones’ trip to the hospital after allegedly getting sick with bad synthetic substance a week before the Patriots-Chiefs playoff game.
Last year, the then-21-year-old Malcom Brown had no time to lose his way. The 3-technique defensive tackle out of Texas had to prove to the Patriots that he belonged as a big part of the franchise’s future. And by the end of the season, the 6-foot-2, 320-pound behemoth had shown everyone that he was a reliable anchor on the line.
What was the key? Brown said Thursday, taking a break from OTAs, that his family life has played a big, big role. Brown, when he was still at Texas working on his consensus All-American form, became a father and husband. He has two daughters, five-year-old Rayna and two-year-old Mayah and his wife Faith, whom he met at Texas.
Does his maturity and family life help him handle responsibility in Foxboro?
“Yeah, it does. It makes you not do dumb things because you have more than yourself to think about,” Brown said. “I focus on my job because it pays the bills. My family, they look up to me because I’m providing for them and stuff. I just make sure I have a different look on things instead of being a young guy in the league and going through the different parts of being at this level. You hone in on what you need to do in the business aspect of everything, too.”
Other Patriots have taken notice, even veterans new to the franchise. Last week, Terrance Knighton said that Brown, in just his second season, has taken a leadership role for defensive linemen, showing those like Knighton what is expected on and off the field as a Patriot.
“I’m just trying to take new guys, young guys and do what the older guys did for me,” Brown said. “Just help them along with the plays and stuff and try to get them to transition better.”
“I think Malcom, he was a unique young guy last year,” Matthew Slater said Thursday. “He came in with a sense of maturity about himself that you don’t often see out of a young player and it’s no surprise that he’s stepping up and leading now. I think he has a great demeanor about himself that kind of guys are drawn to him.
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