|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.
|4 thoughts on Patriots, free agency, who’s still out there at WR||03.17.14 at 6:30 am ET|
Fletcher isn’t a tremendous loss — he was a backup who provided defensive depth at the position, as well as some special teams value. (His shining moment in 2013 likely came in the regular-season win over the Broncos, when he stepped in for a struggling Dont’a Hightower and played significant snaps down the stretch and into overtime.) But from a personnel standpoint, that means a new generation of linebackers likely will be given the chance to step into the void, a group that includes Steve Beauharnais.
Even with a few guys capable of stepping into that spot, there’s the likelihood that New England tries to go out and acquire one more linebacker/special teamer, either in the draft or free agency. The Patriots tried to go after former Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard, but he ended up signing with the Titans.
From this viewpoint, South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr could be a late-round possibility in the draft. (For more on why he might be a fit with the Patriots, check out our story here.)
It’s not a colossal priority at this point, but it’s a personnel question that needs to be addressed between now and the start of offseason workouts.
2. The last few seasons, the Patriots have made a habit of adding veteran free agent wide receivers in free agency — not household names, but relatively anonymous guys who might be a fit in Foxboro. Last year, that group included LaVelle Hawkins, Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones, none of them ultimately worked out.
And so, on the surface, there might be inclination to link them to Brandon LaFell — who was acquired Saturday as a free agent — to last year’s group. But taking a look at LaFell’s work, he might be a step up from that group. LaFell has some positional versatility, having worked on the inside, in the slot and split wide, and his versatility, combined with his surprising size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), likely puts him a step ahead of veteran wide receivers acquired in year’s past.
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Special teams||01.27.14 at 7:00 am ET|
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.
Overview: It was a good year for the specialists. Gostkowski emerged as a legitimate Pro Bowler, ending the year with several clutch field goals, including game-winners to beat the Bills and Broncos and big late kicks against the Jets and Texans. He also successfully executed an onside kick in the dramatic win over the Browns. (He finished the year 35-of-38 on field-goal attempts, as well as 65 touchbacks.) Ryan Allen had a good rookie year as a punter and holder for Gostkowski, finishing the regular-season with 29 punts landing inside the 20 (good for 10th in the league) and a 45.9 average, good for 14th in the NFL. (He was also one of the best things about the Patriots in the AFC title game, dropping three first-half punts inside the 20 and doing his part to help tilt the field for New England in the early going.) Blount was slow to get started as a kick returner but he finished with a flourish — he had two returns in the regular-season finale against the Bills for 145 yards. Meanwhile, Edelman was one of the more consistent punt returners in the league all season — he was 12th in the league in average yards per return with 10.7. This year he also became one of the best punt returners in history, as his 12.3 career average is now tied for seventh on the all-time list. While there’s some question about the futures of Blount and Edelman — both are free agents — figure on Gostkowski, Allen and Aiken all coming back in 2014. While there were guys who drew an exemption because of *ahem* injury, it’s worth noting that special teams was the only area where the Patriots had two Pro Bowlers (Slater, Gostkowski).
Best moment: Blount’s 83-yard kick return in the regular-season finale against the Bills was probably the one that stands out the most, but you could also make a case for Gostkowski’s game-winners against the Broncos (in overtime) and Bills (in the regular-season opener), or his kick to force overtime against the Jets, as well as his career-best 54-yarder against the Saints. And while Edelman didn’t take one all the way back to the house this season, he did have a nifty 43-yard return against the Steelers in November, his longest of the year.
Worst moment: It wasn’t on one of the specialists, but the penalty at the end of the Oct. 20 game against the Jets when Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a late field goal attempt from Nick Folk likely was the worst moment of the year for the special teams. Regardless of what you might think of the penalty, it allowed the Jets an extra chance to win the game in the extra session, and they took advantage. One more — Gostkowski’s performance down the stretch in the loss to the Dolphins in Miami was also probably the roughest outing for him on the season. He missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter and also booted a kickoff out of bounds in the fourth quarter to help set up Miami with terrific field position on what would be its game-winning drive.
By the numbers: 229 — The number of points the Patriots received in the annual special teams rankings compiled by Dallas Morning News football writer Rick Gosselin. That was good enough to land New England at the top of the list. (Gosselin’s rankings, which are held in high regard by NFL front offices, are compiled by ranking all 32 teams in 22 categories and assigning points according to their standing — one for best, 32 for worst. For more on this year’s list, click here.)
Money quote: “Matt is one of the best in the league [at working as a gunner on punt coverage]. I think he has a lot of the qualities that we were talking about. Sure, any time they have to double somebody, that makes it one less guy they can use somewhere else in the return. He almost always draws two guys out there, unless they’re in an eight-man rush. Most of the time there’s two guys out there ‘ fourth-and-short, where they’re trying to protect the box ‘ but he draws a lot of double teams and deservedly so. He does an outstanding job of covering punts. As I said, it’s a tough position to play, but he’s got all the qualities that we talked about to be good. He does a good job for us.” — Bill Belichick on the work of special teams captain Matthew Slater
|Matthew Slater on M&M: Patriots receivers taught to run pick play, but ‘we’re always going to play within the rules of the game’||01.20.14 at 1:07 pm ET|
Patriots receiver and special teams Pro Bowler Matthew Slater checked in with Mut & Merloni on Monday to offer his take on Sunday’s loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game and the controversy surrounding Wes Welker‘s off-the-ball hit on Aqib Talib. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Said Slater: “Obviously Aqib is so important to this football team, what he brings to the table. So for us to lose him in that type of situation was tough. Obviously coach saw something on the film that he didn’t deem fair, and I’m sure he had just reason to feel that way. I haven’t seen the play. If he felt that way, I’m sure that that’s what it was. But there’s nothing that we can do about it now.
“I hope Aqib is OK and on the mend and we can get him healthy and have a healthy offseason. That happens in football and there’s nothing that we can do about it now.”
With the Patriots losing so many key starters this season, Slater said Talib’s injury was just another challenge to overcome.
“We’ve been put in that position so many times this year that we didn’t give it a lot of thought,” he said of the team’s initial reaction. “We just thought we’ve got to continue to play on. But obviously, just like those other guys, looking back in hindsight, when you lose a guy like that it’s going to have an impact, especially in a game like that. But during the time, we didn’t think about it.”
The hit happened while Welker appeared to be running a pick play to free up a teammate, and he collided with Talib as the ball was arriving in Demaryius Thomas‘ hands (Thomas dropped the pass).
“With a lot of man coverage being played in the league, there’s certain things that you have to do to be creative to get your guys open. But you’ve got to do it within the rules and regulations,” Slater said. “When we’re taught to run those routes, we’re taught to still run to get open, not just go in there and set a basketball pick. You’ve got an attempt to get open and make it look like you’re getting open, because the rules state that you have to do that. So, we’re taught to do that, obviously, but within the rules of the game. We’re always going to play within the rules of the game.”
|Tom Brady and Aqib Talib among four Patriots selected to Pro Bowl||12.27.13 at 9:13 pm ET|
Four members of the Patriots were selected to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl, the league announced Friday: Quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins, wide receiver Matthew Slater (special teams) and cornerback Aqib Talib have been selected to represent the team in the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl on Jan. 26, 2014 at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
Here’s a portion of the press release issued by the team:
Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time, tying John Hannah (9) for the most Pro Bowls in Patriots history. It is his fifth consecutive selection to the all-star game. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after each of the following seasons: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Brady heads into the final week of the season with 4,221 yards and 24 touchdown passes. He joined Dan Marino (6), Brett Favre (6), Drew Brees (8) and Peyton Manning (13) as the only NFL players to have at least six seasons with 4,000 passing yards. Brady also guided the Patriots to their 11th division title in 2013, the most division titles among any NFL quarterback.
Mankins was voted to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, as well, and his sixth overall. He went to his first Pro Bowl in 2007 when he became the first Patriots guard to earn a Pro Bowl selection since 1985 when Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah went to his ninth career Pro Bowl. The Fresno State product is in his ninth season with the Patriots since being selected in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since entering the starting lineup in 2005, Mankins has helped New England finish in the top 10 on offense seven times. That mark will improve to eight, as the Patriots enter the final week ranked seventh in offense.
Slater earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection. A productive member of the Patriots special teams units since joining the squad as a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2008, Slater has become a leader after being voted special teams captain each of the last three years. He led the Patriots in special teams tackles for the past three seasons with 21 in 2010, 17 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. He enters the final week of the 2013 season ranked second on the team with 13 special teams tackles, despite missing four games due to injury.
Talib earned his first Pro Bowl selection this year. Talib forced three turnovers, including a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions, to help seal the Patriots 13-10 win over the AFC East rival New York Jets on Sept. 12. He defended a pass in the end zone on a fourth-down attempt in the final minute to secure the Patriots 30-23 win at Atlanta on Sept. 29. Talib also played a major role in holding New Orleans tight end Graham without a catch in the Patriots 30-27 win on Oct. 13. Graham entered that game averaging 118.6 receiving yards per game.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
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