|Special teams captain Matthew Slater happy to be back on field||08.11.15 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — Suffice to say, red isn’t Matthew Slater‘s favorite color.
The Patriots special teams captain returned to the practice field for the first time this summer, but he was in a red non-contact jersey, the result of offseason shoulder surgery. That meant he was on the field for the initial series of stretches, warmups and drills, but sat for the contact work
While it was nice just to be back out there with his teammates, Slater wasn’t happy about not being a full go after being unable to put on pads for the first nine practices of camp.
“Not fun. Red means stop,” he said with a smile after his first on-field work of the summer. “It’s not something that I’m used to doing, but the medical staff knows what’s best for me, so you just have to listen to the doctor’s orders and take it one day at a time.
“It’s my job to be obedient, listen to the staff,” he added. “They have a plan. They’ve done this before, so I’m just trying to do everything that they want to have me do and take it one day at a time — and hopefully come back and be a contributing member of this team.”
The four-time Pro Bowler confessed to having some butterflies in advance of his return to the practice field.
|Bill Belichick feels special transition from Scott O’Brien to Joe Judge: ‘I think he’s a great young coach’||08.01.15 at 3:32 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It takes a lot for Bill Belichick to feel comfortable handing over his special teams unit after it’s been coached by one of the best assistants he’s ever had.
But in Joe Judge, Belichick feels as though he has someone who can begin to fill the shoes of Scotty O’Brien, who walked away from his special teams job after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale.
What has the transition been like so far in OTAs and minicamp?
“Smooth,” Belichick said. “Scott was a great coach, as good a coach as anybody I’ve ever been with and around, did a tremendous job. I learned a ton from Scott. I know Joe did, too, or has. But Joe is a great coach in his own right. Each of us have our own style.
“Joe has his own style, but very well prepared, very thorough, has great experience in the kicking game and all of the situations and techniques, both with the specialists and all the other positions on the field. Joe and I spend a lot of time together. I think he’s a great young coach.”
|Matthew Slater calls Tom Brady ‘heartbeat’ of Patriots||07.29.15 at 2:02 pm ET|
On Wednesday, the special teams captain made it clear how much he supports the signal-caller he’s known since he was drafted out of UCLA in 2008.
“I think it’s safe to say that Tom is the heartbeat of this team,” Slater said. “He’s been here longer than any player. He set the standard. He’s earned everything he’s accomplished in this league. You respect the way he approaches his craft. With that, you have 89 other guys that try to do the same thing and really try to buy into what we’re doing here. We realize that we have to work hard in order for us to have success. Nobody is going to give us anything. Nobody cares what we did last year. It’s all about taking it year to year and I think Tom is a great example of that.
“All of us in here are part of a family. We come from a family and the guys in this locker room, we feel as those we’re family in there. Good or bad, things happen in life and you stick with your family, no matter what the outcome. I think that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
Slater also threw his complete support behind the comments from team owner Robert Kraft and appreciated the owner speaking up hours earlier, taking some of the heat off players and coaches.
“Look, Mr. Kraft is the captain of this ship,” Slater said. “He’s the captain of this organization so he speaks for all of us when he speaks. I think he said everything that needed to be said.
“In the meantime, we’re just going to focus on playing football. We’re going to focus on improving ourselves through training camp and take it one day at a time.”
|Patriots’ White House trip signifies turning page on 2014, shifting focus towards 2015||04.23.15 at 9:00 am ET|
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.
|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|
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.”
|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|
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.
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.
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