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Patriots’ White House trip signifies turning page on 2014, shifting focus towards 2015 04.23.15 at 9:00 am ET
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The 2014 Super Bowl champs will get together one last time Thursday at the White House. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The 2014 Super Bowl champs will get together one last time Thursday at the White House. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Thursday afternoon the 2014 Patriots will get together for one final time, as they will be honored by President Obama at the White House.

There have been numerous appearances over the last two-plus months that have come with being Super Bowl champions, but after Thursday the Patriots will moving on.

“I think from a team aspect standpoint, it really puts everything in the past,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I think it will helps focus on 2015 now and everything we want to do for 2015 is still out there, but we also understand we have to put the work in now.”

Many, if not all, of the departed free agents — including Darrelle Revis are scheduled to be in attendance, but after Thursday they will no longer be teammates, they will be division rivals.

“I think this kind of closes the book on 2014 and as I said, our focus needs to shift, because the other teams in this league, their focus has already shifted and they’€™re hungry to do what we were able to do last year,” special teams Matthew Slater said.

Even though it signifies the end of the 2014 season, the team is definitely looking forward to the experience, which for many will be the first time they will visit the White House, 2014 was their first Super Bowl win.

“I think that’€™s a tremendous experience, to be able to go to the White House and meet the President,” said Slater. “I know we’€™re all excited about it, and we’€™re going to enjoy it. I think we should. We’€™re excited.”

As the focus shifts towards the 2015 and a new season, the team is coming off a Super Bowl winning season, so they obviously did a lot of things right over the course of the year. Part of defending a championship is staying hungry and trying to get better everyday, but at the same time also realizing which things worked well last season and trying to keep them going.

“That’€™s a very good question. I think we’€™ll find out. I think it’€™s important, as you do every offseason, to take time, reflect on the season, look at what you did, good or bad, whether you ended up winning the Super Bowl or not,” Slater said. “It’€™s important to do that, reflect on it, and then at some point you have to close the door. I think there are some things that can carry over as far as what we did well, but I think we have to understand this is a different football team with different players, and it’€™s a new season, so we have to focus on the here and now.”

The Patriots will begin their OTAs on May 26 with mandatory mini camp a few weeks later June 16-18.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater,
Matthew Slater: Scott O’Brien ‘earned his retirement,’ but ‘excited to play for’ Joe Judge, Ray Ventrone 04.22.15 at 11:31 am ET
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Scott O'Brien

Scott O’Brien

FOXBORO — There’s no question the Patriots’ special teams played a large role in the Super Bowl winning season last year.

Whether it was blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown, blocking a punt, or even just a huge flip in field position, the Patriots’ special teams unit seemingly made a big play every single week.

Just two days after winning the Super Bowl, their leader, coach Scott O’Brien announced his retirement after 24 seasons in the NFL, including the last six in New England. O’Brien will remain with the organization in some capacity.

In the same release, the team announced assistant special teams coach Joe Judge would take over for O’Brien and then later the team signed former player Ray Ventrone to serve as Judge’s assistant.

“I know that the game comes to an end for all of us and I know Scott had jokingly mentioned it over the years, and I certainly didn’€™t want him to retire because he definitely means a lot to me personally and I know to a lot of guys around here, but he’€™s earned his retirement,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said.

“He’€™s given a lot to this game, and I know he’€™s excited about the next chapter. That being said, we’€™re excited about having Ray [Ventrone] here and Joe Judge, them starting their legacy, we’€™re excited to play for those guys.”

Ventrone actually played for the Patriots and Bill Belichick from 2006-08. In all he played nine seasons in the NFL,  primarily used as a special teams player, registering 57 total tackles.

Slater was actually a teammate of Ventrone, and he always had a feeling one day he would become a coach.

“Certainly,” Slater said. “I think Ray was just a pro’€™s pro, the way he played the game and the way he prepared, he had a better understanding of the game than most guys I’€™ve ever played with. The way he competed, I had so much respect for him as a competitor and the passion that he played with and he’€™s already bringing that to the meeting room and we’€™re excited about it. Like I said, I’€™m not surprised that he’€™s doing what he’€™s doing now.”

Having a former teammate now be his coach, Slater said there was one thing he needed to be made clear before getting started.

“The big thing that I wanted to get clear with Ray was, ‘€˜Should I call you Ray or should I call you coach Ventrone?’€™” Slater joked. “So it’€™s going to be great. Coach Ventrone is a very intelligent guy and he played this game at a high level for a long time and he really understands the game, so I’€™m excited to work with him, to learn from him, and I think he’€™s going to bring a lot to the table.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Joe Judge, Matthew Slater, Ray Ventrone
Matthew Slater on Nate Solder’s testicular cancer: ‘The way he handled that last year was really admirable’ 04.21.15 at 3:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The general population learned Tuesday morning of Nate Solder being diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer prior to last season. But, for some of his teammates they knew last year, and were blown away with how he handled it, especially during a Super Bowl winning season.

“I was aware of it, and you know, I have so much respect for Nate Solder and the type of man that he is, the faith in God that he has and the way he carries himself and I can’€™t think of anyone who’€™s handled a situation like that better than he did,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “I don’€™t want to get too much in detail, I’€™ll let him speak on that, but Nate Solder is a great man and the way he handled that last year was really admirable, with so much courage and a positive attitude, a sense of peace, it was really something to behold.”

Devin McCourty, another veteran and team captain, said he knew, but said there were some players on the team who didn’t.

“I don’t know if everyone knew,” he said. “I think some guys knew, but I think that was more for him a personal process. It wasn’t something as a team that everyone talked about, it was more for him. I think as a teammate you’re just blown away by everything he was able to do — getting over that, playing at a high level.

“To me it was highly impressive. Nate is a great guy and he does so many things — on the field, off the field and I think that is another battle that he passed and now he’s going to do great things with it spreading awareness.”

The report Tuesday morning said Solder goes to Mass General every three months for check ups and everything is going according to plan.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Nate Solder,
Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater react to Aaron Hernandez verdict at 2:54 pm ET
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Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of murder last week. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was just two years ago that Aaron Hernandez shared the same locker room and was a teammate of many of the current players on the Patriots roster.

They too had emotions when the former tight end was convicted of murder last week.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater said he’s praying for everyone involved, including Hernandez.

“I’€™ll say this: that’€™s a very tragic, sad situation, for so many different people, for so many different reasons,” Slater said. “You know, I just feel like we all should keep everybody involved and affected by that situation in our prayers and our thoughts, that’€™s really all I’€™ll say on that. My heart is broken on so many different levels for that, and I just pray for everyone that’€™s been affected by it.”

Like Slater, McCourty is thinking of both sides — Hernandez’s family, as well as Odin Lloyd’s.

“It was just saddening,” he said. “I think you’re talking about two lives that are gone. I think it’s like everyone else, you look at that whole thing it’s just a saddening event and everything that went on.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater,
ST captain Matthew Slater to deliver commencement address at Fisher College in May 03.03.15 at 12:42 pm ET
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Fisher College announced Tuesday that Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree this May.

The 29-year-old Slater, who was a fifth-round pick of the franchise in 2008, has become an indispensable part of New England’s special teams unit, eventually rising to the role of captain. In his seven seasons with the Patriots, he’s not only distinguished himself as a terrific special teams player, but as a vital and well-respected leader in the locker room.

“We are truly honored to Matthew Slater address our graduates this year,” said Dr. Thomas M. McGovern, president of Fisher College. “Mr. Slater is a world champion both on the field and off through his tireless work mentoring local students. We share the same mission and believe that Mr. Slater’s commencement address will have a resounding impact on our graduates, their families and the entire Fisher College community.”

Read More: Matthew Slater,
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Special teams 02.09.15 at 9:30 am ET
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Julian Edelman again carved out a niche as one of the best punt returners in the league. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman again carved out a niche as one of the best punt returners in the league. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kick off the series with a look at the special teams.

Depth chart: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, kick returner Danny Amendola, punt returner Julian Edelman, long snapper Danny Aiken, coverage man Matthew Slater

Overview: While the Patriots got steady and consistent performances on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball all year, the special teams were a true difference maker for New England on several occasions over the course of the 2014 season.

The Patriots had three different players win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, they tied for the league lead in field goals blocked per game, and were among the league leaders in almost every major special teams category. Gostkowski finished second in the league in field-goal accuracy (at 94.6 percent, he was second only to Indy’€™s Adam Vinatieri at 96.8 percent) and Edelman’€™s 12.0 return average on punt returns was second best in the NFL this season (trailing only Philly’€™s Darren Sproles at 13.0.) Meanwhile, Amendola gave a midseason boost to the kick return unit, and provided some consistency, averaging 24.1 yards per return, including an 81-yarder in a win over the Lions. Allen was 12th in the league in net punting average (39.9), dropped 25 of his 66 regular-season punts inside the 20 and set a Super Bowl record with a 64-yard punt in the third quarter of last Sunday’€™s win over the Seahawks. The Patriots were also fifth in the league in kick coverage (yielding 21.2 yards per attempt) and 16th in punt coverage (9.2 yards per attempt). All in all, a terrific season for New England’€™s special teams unit, which came up big on several occasions over the course of the year.

Going forward, the group will be challenged, as longtime special teams coach Scott O’€™Brien announced his retirement in the days after the Super Bowl. Special teams assistant Joe Judge will take the reins, and while he’€™s considered a well-respected coach who is ready to ascend, it’€™ll be tough to replicate what O’€™Brien did with the group in 2014.

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Read More: Danny Aiken, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater
Extra special: Patriots special teams has excelled under coach Scott O’Brien 01.28.15 at 12:44 am ET
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Scott O'Brien has been the Patriots' special teams coach for six years. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Scott O’Brien has been the Patriots’ special teams coach for six years. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Often times on some NFL teams, the special teams unit gets over looked. Not so much with the New England Patriots.

Led by special teams coach Scott O’Brien — in his sixth year in New England, but serving as a special teams coach in the NFL since 1991 — the Patriots have emerged as one of the better special teams units in the league, making game-changing plays on numerous occasions.

The Patriots’ special teams group finished first in Rick Gosselin’s famous NFL special teams rankings this year and finished seventh in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranking, a major credit to the work O’Brien has done with his players.

“I’€™m not sure,” O’Brien said when asked why he’s coached special teams exclusively for 23 seasons. “I’€™m sure I was influenced by a lot of people I came up with through my career. I’€™ve always enjoyed it as a player. I can’€™t put my finger on it, but it’€™s always been something I’€™ve enjoyed doing. I love the schemes, the creation of it. I don’€™t know. I don’€™t think it’€™s just one thing. I’€™ve had a lot of influences on me.”

New England has blocked five kicks this season — four field goals and one punt. The unit has seen three players get named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Chris Jones for his field goal block in the closing seconds against the Jets in Week 7, Julian Edelman for his punt return for a touchdown against the Broncos in Week 9 and Ryan Allen for his field position changing punts in Week 14 against the Chargers.

The four blocked field goals on the year was a franchise record.

“I think a lot of it has been, like I said, timing,” O’Brien said. “It’€™s a group effort no matter who blocks it. To block kicks in this league is hard to do. It usually takes more than one thing to happen to have that success, but I think these guys have always worked hard at it. You just get the right combination of the right players in the right spot. You give them a chance to have success, and they have it. It’€™s obviously had a big impact during the games.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Brandon Bolden, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner
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