|Matthew Slater compares ‘fearless’ Cordarrelle Patterson to Devin Hester||09.12.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Earlier in the day, Bill Belichick compared Cordarrelle Patterson to Baltimore’s explosive Jacoby Jones, the man who returned a key kick for a touchdown to open the second half of Super Bowl XLVII.
With 18 touchdowns, Hester holds the NFL record for most all-time return touchdowns (punt and kick combined) and most all-time punt return touchdowns (13). Last year, Patterson had two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
“I think what we have to do is really do a good job of getting a lot of hats to the ball,” Slater said. “This guy back there is as good as anybody we’ve seen over the last 10, 15 years in this league. He reminds you a lot of a young Hester with his explosive play. We just have to do a good job of getting a lot of hats to the ball, everybody just doing their job, not trying to go down there and run out of your lane to make a heroic play. We just have to do our job, beat this front and hopefully contain him.”
Like Jones in the Super Bowl, Patterson returned a kick 109 yards for a touchdown last year, one of two he took to the house in 2013. He led the NFL with a 15.4 yard average. What makes him so good from a defender’s perspective?
“I think similar to Devin and Jacoby, he is fearless,” Slater said. “Those guys, the good ones, are not afraid. Sometimes there may be smoke and they’re running though it. Now, there may be a guy on the other side of that smoke or there may be a seam. Those guys are not afraid to hit it and that’s what makes them great.”
Patterson isn’t the only return specialist Slater is concerned about as Marcus Sherels is one of the most feared punt returners in the game.
“This guy was second in the league in punt returns last year,” Slater noted. “Speed, quickness, similar aggressive nature about him. He’s got the ability to make people miss in the open field and he seems to have a good feel for the return schemes that they run. He poses a big problem back there as well.”
|‘No panic’ for Patriots after season-opening loss to Dolphins||09.09.14 at 6:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots locker room was a quiet, empty place late Monday afternoon as the players had just wrapped up their day reviewing the ugly game film from Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.
Many of the players walked to their lockers, grabbed their belongings and left without much interaction. The Patriots had not lost a season-opener since 2003, so it was an unusual feeling for the players this early in the season as they went 4-0 during the opening month of last season.
“It’s never a happy meeting room after a loss,” safety Devin McCourty said. “There’s no panic — watch the film, correct what we need to correct and try and move on. It’s the first game of the season. We can’t let that affect the rest of the season. We still have a lot of football left to be played. We have to keep improving and the focus is to go out there and win on Sunday.”
It was the Patriots’ first loss by more than one possession in the regular season since Nov. 7, 2010 when they lost 34-14 to the Browns.
Instead of dwelling on the loss and kicking themselves for their mistakes, the sentiment among all the players was they have already turned the page on Sunday and are now focused on correcting the miscues for Week 2 against Minnesota.
“I think the biggest thing for us this week is going back to square one and focusing on the fundamentals,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “I think fundamentally we need to do a number of things better and it wasn’t for a lack of effort or anything like that. We just need to go back to the basics and try and improve.”
The team is full of veteran players who have won in the league before and know one loss isn’t going to make or break the entire season. Therefore, the confidence level among players hasn’t changed after one rough game.
“Confidence is fine,” safety Duron Harmon said. “We know it’s a long season and we just need to fix it and keep moving in the right direction.”
|What to watch for in Thursday’s Patriots-Giants preseason finale||08.28.14 at 7:30 am ET|
Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Giants in the preseason finale for both teams.
WHO DOESN’T PLAY
When it comes to the preseason finale, it’s just as important to figure out who doesn’t play as opposed to who does play. As we detailed here, if you’re a starter — or even a veteran — and you find yourself on the field for anything more than 10-15 snaps on Thursday night, it’s a bad sign. (The only area where this might be an exception is along the interior of the offensive line, for reasons we will address shortly.) Based on the work the Patriots were able to put in last week against the Panthers when they looked mostly razor sharp on both sides of the ball, don’t expect many of the starters to see the field against the Giants, despite the fact that we know New York is going to roll out its starters for between 15-18 snaps.
A good chunk of this relates back to the first point — we know quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to start and get the bulk of the snaps. But given the fact that history tells us those who don’t play are likely to have a secure roster spot, we’ll be keeping an eye on a few first-year players and monitoring their playing time. Cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back James White have been among the rookies who have played well enough to land a roster spot over the course of the summer — if they end up sitting Thursday night, it’s a good bet they’ve made the roster.
Thursday will be the first professional start for Garoppolo, and he’ll get a chance to show what he can do against a No. 1 defense for the first time in the preseason. The New England coaching staff will be interested in seeing him in as many different situations as possible: two-minute, end-of-half, under pressure from a steady rush, as well as a potential four-minute offense situation. Everything is on the table when it comes to evaluating Garoppolo. From this viewpoint, Ryan Mallett still is the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but the rookie will get his opportunity to show what he can do come Thursday evening in North Jersey.
|Devin McCourty on Logan Mankins: ‘Don’t know if [you] get that type of teammate ever again’||08.26.14 at 6:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For those Patriots who played with Logan Mankins, Tuesday was harder than any offseason or training camp practice they’ve had this season.
After their first practice without the six-time Pro Bowl left guard, they came off the field and had to face the reality that the business side of the NFL and the Patriots had hit home. Mankins’ locker was in tact along with some team equipment but his teammates were left to answer questions about his sudden departure to Tampa Bay.
“He’s the type of guy you don’t know if get that type of teammate ever again,” safety Devin McCourty said. “He’s a tough guy. The different injuries he’s played through, being out there every snap, every chance he could get. When I got here, he wasn’t at here at first because he was home and he missed first couple of games. He came back and you could see the difference up front in how everybody played. He went to the Pro Bowl in a half-year. I think that just spoke volumes about a guy who you just see his leadership stand out as soon as he steps on the field.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s a guy you look up to, and I’m a defensive back and that’s watching the offensive line. Tampa is going to get one helluva player, and guy.”
McCourty the player then spoke like McCourty a team captain.
“There are some things you can’t control. You just accept,” he added. “It’s tough, it’s tough. You just tell yourself, and it starts the older guys on the team, you have to go out there and play. You can’t just sit there and sulk or be disappointed in your mind. You just have to go out there and play and make sure the younger and go about it and play and follow your lead. That’s the way I looked at today.
“This time of year is difficult. When we have 90 guys, whether it’s a guy like Travis Hawkins, in my room every day asking me a bunch of questions, working his tail off. Coach says it every year, this is a tough time for everybody. Coaches don’t like making these decisions. This one felt a little bit more because of the type of player Logan was and how long he’s been here.”
Mankins is gone to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Matthew Slater is another Patriots player who, like Mankins, has served as a captain before. He admitted that once the team was informed by Bill Belichick of the trade before practice Tuesday, it was tough going about business.
“It is difficult,” Slater said. “You know a guy for a number of years, you get to know his family, his kids, and that makes it tough. There is always a human element involved. We signed up to do a job here, and we understand what that job entails, and we understand what comes along with that, but at the same time, you can’t separate yourself from the human element, and the emotions and feelings that come along with it.
|Nate Solder, Matthew Slater hit the links in support of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation||06.30.14 at 1:25 pm ET|
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Being an NFL football player takes a tremendous toll on one’s body. The long, scorching hot days of training camp leading to the daily grind of a regular season is incredibly tough to handle, both physically and mentally.
The time between the end of mini camp and the start of training camp gives players one last month to catch their breath and rejuvenate their bodies one last time before the start of the new season, which for the Patriots begins with the first day of training camp on July 24.
Left tackle Nate Solder and special teams specialist Matthew Slater spent one of their last free Monday’s relaxing, joining a number of former professional athletes and local celebrities for a round of golf at the Pinehills Golf Club supporting the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.
“Just continuing to train and get my body in shape,” Slater said of what the next month will be like for him. “You try and do the best you can for your body to prepare for an NFL season and that is a strenuous process, but one you enjoy at the same time. Just doing the best we can as individuals and as a team to get ourselves ready for what lies ahead.
“It’s definitely an exciting time of the year. You work all year to get to this point being the start of a new season. We put a lot of work in and there is still a lot of work to be put in. We’re just excited about the 2014 season and what is in store for us.”
Monday’s event will raise funds and awareness in support of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which helps cancer patients and their families make critical mortgage, rent and utility payments during financially-challenging times and to help fund pediatric brain cancer research. Last year’s tournament raised a record $278,000.
“It’s great support and seeing what we’re about – that we are in the community, we’re apart of the community,” Andruzzi said of the support he gets from current Patriots players. “They are here playing for the Patriots, but they are also living in the community so we’re helping the people around them, people in this area and all throughout New England. For them to pay it forward and join forces with us is a great tribute to us.”
|Why Matthew Slater feels ‘there’s a lot to be excited about’ with Darrelle Revis, 2014 Patriots||04.22.14 at 4:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Matthew Slater is a natural-born optimist.
Every time the Patriots special teams captain speaks, you can hear it in his voice. So, it should come as no surprise that Slater is like all the other Patriots players who are reacting to the addition of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and the chances for the 2014 Patriots.
“I’ve gotten a few chances to visit with Revis,” Slater said Tuesday, taking a break from his workout at Gillette. “Obviously, competing against him over the years, got a chance to meet him and spend some time with him in Hawaii this year. Really a good guy, does everything the right way, plays the game the right way, and you respect that about a guy, no matter who he plays for. If he plays the game hard and plays the game the right way, you respect it and he’s definitely one of those guys.
“I don’t really follow a whole lot of football in the offseason. I heard it and that would be great if he came [to the Patriots] I thought. Obviously, when you get a player like that, you’re excited about the opportunity to play with them. You know what he brings to the table. They’re 31 other teams out there that are trying to get done what they need to get done. And we’ve got to try to focus on us and improve.”
Slater and Revis spent time together in Hawaii this past January, when Slater participated in his third straight Pro Bowl. His father, Jackie Slater, was a seven-time Pro-Bowler. With 10 Pro Bowl nods between them, the Slaters are the second most nominated family in NFL history. (Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning have 18).
Revis is just one of a handful of new additions that will be on hand this spring and summer when the Patriots get back on the field to begin practicing for real. In addition to Revis and Browner, there’s wide receiver Brandon LaFell and all the draft picks and rookie free agents who will be descending upon Foxboro. This week marks the true beginning for NFL teams, as players are permitted back at their club’s facilities for offseason weight lifting and training.
“There’s a lot to be excited about,” Slater said. ‘There’s some extremely talented players that we’ve added to the roster along with some extremely talented players that we’ve had here for a while. All that is on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together. We have a long ways to go.
FOXBORO — Matthew Slater knows a good thing when he sees one.
Being special teams captain on a perennial winner like the Patriots, with a chance to go to the Super Bowl nearly every season certainly qualifies.
Add to the fact that his coaches are special teams coach Scott O’Brien and head coach Bill Belichick, and it’s no surprise that Slater is loving life in New England, with no intentions of going anywhere else. Slater is entering the third and final year of a deal worth $5.4 million, signed in March 2012.
Taking time out from his offseason workout program inside Gillette Stadium, Slater, the special teams captain of the Patriots for the last three seasons, says he and the Patriots are a perfect fit because of the coaching he has received.
“I really feel like this is ultimately the perfect fit because coach Belichick understands that you have to have solid effort in all three phases to have a good football team,” Slater said. “That’s something he values and they value here and fortunate for me, I’ve been able to have a little bit of success doing that.
“I definitely think the cerebral part of the game, and really thinking about what you’re doing, having a plan of attack, understanding how you’re being attacked or blocked, understanding what you’re trying to do return-wise. He’s really opened my mind to just being more than a fast guy that’s running down and throwing my body around. It’s a thinking man’s game, believe it or not. He’s really helped me in that area. There’s also been things physically that he’s challenged me to do better. I’m really thankful to have played for a coach like that.”
Ironically, Slater, who is already entering his seventh season with the Patriots, has been in New England longer than his current special teams coach.
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