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Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski among leaders in Pro Bowl voting 12.10.14 at 1:56 pm ET
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With a week to go in voting for the Pro Bowl, the Patriots have two leaders at their respective positions — tight end Rob Gronkowski and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gronkowski (421,318) leads all tight ends, with Denver’s Julius Thomas (312,698) more than 100,000 votes behind, and Gostkowski is tops among kickers with 158,555 votes. Meanwhile, Matthew Slater is second among all special teamers with 83,496 votes, trailing only Cleveland’s Johnson Bademosi (123,858). And quarterback Tom Brady (627,135 votes) is third in voting at quarterback, trailing Denver’s Peyton Manning (753,689) and Green Bay‘s Aaron Rodgers (711,972).

Balloting will conclude on December 15. and the Pro Bowl players will be announced on December 23. Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft during the week leading up to the game, which will be played on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX.

Read More: Matthew Slater, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady
Patriots making themselves at home in San Diego leading up to Sunday’s game 12.02.14 at 6:00 am ET
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The upcoming week will be anything but ordinary for the Patriots as they traveled directly to San Diego from Green Bay following Sunday’s game and will hold a week of practice in warm, sunny California — over 2,500 miles away from their Gillette Stadium home — as they get ready for Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers.

But, according to the Patriots it is just another week, only in a different location.

“I don’€™t think there’€™s going to be very much different,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said on a conference call Monday. “We’€™re going to put the same effort and time and preparation into that we normally would. The coaches are going to be doing everything that they normally do. The only thing that’€™s different is the location that we’€™re doing it in. Other than that, there’€™s no difference. We’€™re all professionals. We understand what we have to do and we’€™re going to do it.”

The Patriots will be spending 10 days on the road as they left for Green Bay last Saturday, and won’t return to New England until early Monday morning following Sunday’s night game. With the team spending almost every waking minute together, it has a training camp like feel.

“There’€™s definitely a feeling of training camp where we’€™re all together,” offensive lineman Dan Connolly said. “But it’€™s important for us to not be distracted by nice weather and things that are going on out here and realize that we have a job to do this week and we have to treat it as much like a regular week as we can and still prepare for the game that we have on Sunday.”

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Read More: Dan Connolly, Green Bay Packers, Matthew Slater, Miami Dolphins
Matthew Slater focused on Green Bay even following contract extension 11.26.14 at 2:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In typical Matthew Slater fashion, even after signing a two-year contract extension with the Patriots through the end of the 2016 season, he would rather talk about the Patrots’ next opponent in the Packers, than himself.

“I’d love to be able to indulge in that, but we have to focus on playing the Packers this week,” Slater said.

The special teams specialist did give one comment on his contract, but that was as far as he would go.

“I don’t want to get into too much detail about it. I am so thankful for what the lord has done in my life and my career and develop me here as a player and as a man,” Slater said. “I am thankful for an opportunity to continue this development — I am thankful to the coaching staff and coach [Bill] Belichick and this organization for believing in me and appreciating a player like me, and guys like myself across this team. That being said, the focus here is on us preparing for Green Bay. That is all I am concerned with and I’d rather talk about that.”

Slater’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season. Even as strictly a special teamer, Slater has made a huge impact being a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He also serves as the team’s player representative.

“It means a lot. It definitely means a lot to me,” he said of being a member of the Patriots organization. “I really feel like God has blessed me with a tremendous opportunity and I take a lot of pride and am thankful for the opportunity I’ve had here to live out a childhood dream.”

Slater is looking forward to Sunday’s game in Green Bay against a tough Packers team and being able to play at the historic Lambeau Field.

“Excited about it,” he said. “A lot of history there and with Curley Lambeau and everything that this organization stands for. I don’t think the league would be where it is without a franchise like this so we’re excited about the challenge. All that being said, we’re going against one of the best teams in football. That is going to be a big challenge for us and we have to have a good week of preparation and have a good effort on Sunday.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Matthew Slater,
Report: Matthew Slater signs 2-year contract extension through 2016 at 9:06 am ET
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FOXBORO — According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Patriots have signed special teams specialist Matthew Slater to a 2-year, $4 million contract extension through the 2016 season. His contract was set to expire at the end of this season.

“He does a great job with all the players, not only the younger players, but with his peers,” said Bill Belichick. “He’s very well respected in the locker room, not just by the players, but by our organization just by the way he goes about his job and how committed he is to the team, how dependable he is, his work ethic, his attitude, his toughness. He’s really pretty much a model player. I’d love to have 53 players like him.”

“Matt’s improved a lot like any player would over that period of time,” Belichick added. “We drafted him as a special teams player, so decent pick for a guy with what his skills are. A little bit ahead of [Nate] Ebner, but similar with that type of role. We had a decent investment him him, we thought he’d be pretty good. He’s everything and more you could ever hope for, I’ll say that. His personality, his intelligence, his character both on and off the field, his leadership, he does it all.”

Slater, a special teams captain and the Patriots’ player representative, has been a member of the team since 2008 after being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. He has made three Pro Bowls in his previous five full seasons (he didn’t play in 2010), a big accomplishment for a player who plays almost strictly special teams.

Belichick was asked of the report, but didn’t have a comment.

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5 thoughts on return of LeGarrette Blount, state of Patriots running game 11.21.14 at 12:12 am ET
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LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

1. In stark contrast to the nasty words that were coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room in the wake of what happened with LeGarrette Blount over the last week, on Thursday, the vibe around the Patriots was all good when it came to the newest Patriot. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great teammate,” while fullback James Develin said it was “good” to have him back. Meanwhile, Jonas Gray — who likely will see his role shrink some with the addition of Blount — said he had no problem with the move, adding that the veteran is is a “great guy to learn from.” As for what sort of role awaits him, it’s likely he’ll split duties with Gray as the primary between-the-tackles back, as well as serve as some sort of insurance policy if the stage gets too big for the youngster, or if he puts the ball on the ground at some point. It’s also possible he sees time as a part-time kick returner — with the occasional exception of Danny Amendola, no one has really done much to distinguish themselves in the position. With his background last year, it certainly makes sense for the Patriots to give him a shot back there.

2. Few teams have seen the type of turnover at the running back position as New England. With the injury to Ridley, if form holds, the Patriots will have their sixth different back lead the team in rushing in 2014 over the last decade — only four other teams (Saints, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals) have had more. Corey Dillon (2004-2006), Laurence Maroney (2007, 2009), Sammy Morris (2008), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010-2011) and Stevan Ridley (2012-2013). And now, with Ridley on the shelf the rest of the year, this season it figures to be either Vereen, Gray or Blount. That could change again next year, as Brandon Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen are all in the final year of their contracts, while Blount, Gray and rookie James White are all under contract for 2015. (In addition, Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed by the Patriots this summer but is spending the year on injured reserve because of a knee issue, is still a possibility to be a part of the mix next season.) Regardless, even with all the changes, things could still change between now and the start of next season.

3. As forward thinking as the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — has been the last few years, there’s something impressively retro about what New England might be able to do this season. If we operate with the idea that a “running back by committee” includes a team with four backs with at least 40 carries, it appears that for the second straight season, the Patriots will attempt to be the first team to win a Super Bowl using the “running back by committee” approach since the 1987 Redskins, who won Super Bowl. Right now, the Patriots three different backs reach with at least 69 carries (Ridley with 94, Vereen with 70 and Gray with 69). While some of those numbers are borne out of necessarily since Ridley went down, if Blount is able to click down the stretch for New England — and it’s entirely possible he can hit the 40-carry mark, given his experience in the system — he would be a fourth. If the Patriots could take the title, it would represent the greatest cross-section of work for running backs for any Super Bowl champion since that Washington team emerged with a win in Super Bowl XXII. (Of course, that Redskins team could be discounted on a penalty, as that was a strike year and one of the backs was a scab who rushed 80 times in three strike games but never played another down. If you disqualify them on a technicality, them the last true RBBC team to win a Super Bowl in a non-strike year was the 1981 Niners, a team that had five different backs finish with 40 carries or more: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Johnny Davis, Walt Easley and Paul Hofer.)

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Read More: Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Ellington, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Bolden
Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater among top Pro Bowl vote-getters 11.13.14 at 8:30 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the first wave of voting complete, three members of the Patriots lead Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.

Rob Gronkowski leads voting among tight ends with 166,066 votes, while kicker Stephen Gostkowski (67,814 votes) and special teamer Matthew Slater (36,679 votes) are also currently leading their groupings.

As for quarterback Tom Brady, he’s fourth among quarterbacks with 254,807, behind only Peyton Manning (359,598), Andrew Luck (284,575), Aaron Rodgers (280,394). He’s fifth overall, as he’s just nudged out by running back DeMarco Murray (263,097).

Despite the fact that Brady is near the top of the voting totals, don’t expect him to make it, even if the Patriots are able to play. The quarterback has been voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, but the last time he actually went to the Pro Bowl was 2004.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 25 in Arizona the week before the Super Bowl.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matthew Slater, Peyton Manning
Short week won’t get in the way of Patriots-Jets rivalry: ‘Everything goes out the window when you play these guys’ 10.13.14 at 9:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With just three days in between games when playing on Thursday Night Football, it might be tough to get up for your next opponent.

Not this week for the Patriots and Jets, as the AFC East division rivals will meet for the first time this season Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

“I think records go out the window when you play these guys,”€ special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “Everything goes out the window when you play these guys and you don’€™t have a problem getting up for them because of the history that is there. We will be ready as well.”

Even though the Jets come into the game 1-5 — losers of five straight — they are coming off a game Sunday where they were competitive right until the end with the Broncos, ultimately falling, 31-17. It is also their first division game of the season.

Having limited time to prepare, it does help facing a team you’€™re familiar with.

“Obviously every year teams are different,” Slater said. “We have new players, they have new players so there is still a sense of urgency when I comes to getting to know them, but it does help that we know some of their tendencies and we know their coach. We know kind of what to expect.”

After getting back from Buffalo late Sunday night, the biggest thing for the players is to try and get their bodies back to full strength after the beating they took Sunday afternoon, while also trying to become familiar with the game plan as quickly as possible with only two days until the game.

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Read More: Matthew Slater, New York Jets, Rob Ninkovich,
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