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Matthew Slater Press Conference Transcript 7/27

Q: Devin [McCourty] says today felt like the first day of school. Does it feel that way to you?

MS: Definitely, I'd echo that for sure. It's exciting to be back and we know that this is the beginning of a long journey, but it's good to see everyone. We know what time it is so everyone's excited.

Q: Is it hard to see Tom [Brady] knowing you only get him for these preseason weeks and then you lose him for four?

MS: You know, it's obviously going to be an adjustment. We're definitely thankful that he's around now, and I think he brings so much to the table. There's so much that we can learn from having him around, and obviously we all want to have a good training camp, it's the foundation upon which the season is built, so I think he would definitely include himself in that group. Needless to say, there will definitely be an adjustment period for us in dealing with that, but we're just going to take it one day at a time.

Q: Have you talked to him at all about his decision to drop it?

MS: No, I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet.

Q: Does it help the team at all that there is some definition with Tom's situation now? Does it at least benefit the team, whereas before there was always sort of this guessing game?

MS: I certainly think we understand what we have to prepare for now. We understand what everyone has to do moving forward. To have a little clarity with that situation is obviously going to help our quarterback situation the first four games, and we know what it is now we can prepare for it. I think Tom can help us prepare for it as well, as I'm sure he will, being the leader that he is for this team. I think in that regard the clarity helps us as far as our preparation is concerned.

Q: Anything you can tell the fans about how ready Jimmy [Garoppolo] is?

MS: Well, you know I can't speak for Jimmy, but I know he's been working hard just like the rest of us have. He's prepared himself for a moment to play since he got in this league. He's worked for it, and we believe in his abilities, and we know that he's going to go out to give us everything he has. And again, I'll say that I know Tom is going to do everything that he can do to make sure that not only Jimmy is prepared, but that this football team is prepared to do what it needs to do moving forward.

Q: When you were here in the spring you were asked about Nate [Ebner] and the prospect of him being on the Olympic Rugby Team, now he is, of course. You're focused on what you have to do day in and day out for camp, but how will you keep track of how he's doing? Have you had contact with him since he made the team?

MS: I've had several conversations with Nate, several phone calls. Again, as I said back then, I'm just so happy for him. And I know why rugby means so much to him, and many of us are familiar with the situation with his father, and his father obviously introduced him to the game of [rugby]. So, that connection with father and son is bigger than sport itself. I know this means a great deal to him and we're all excited for him. I'm just trying to figure out where I can get my Ebner rugby jersey. I'll be supporting him and watching him along the way.

Q: What makes him such a good special teams player?

MS: I think the mentality that Nate has, you know you've got to be a little bit off, and come game day Nate finds a way to get himself ready to go and compete, and he's not afraid to compete no matter who it is. Nate is a guy that's going to give you everything he has whether it's Monday or game day. He's really bought into his role on this football team, what his role is in the kicking game. I certainly appreciate him, not only on the field, but I appreciate his friendship and I appreciate what he stands for as a person. 

Q: There are a lot of young guys in camp vying for special teams spots and backup spots, do you find yourself being more of a mentor and a coach to a lot of those young guys during this time of the year?

MS: Certainly. I guess at this point in time I'm one of the old guys, and I've been very fortunate to be in this system for as long as I have, in a system that appreciates the kicking game. And one thing that you can learn from a guy like me is that you don't necessarily have to be Randy Moss or Tedy Bruschi. You can be Larry Izzo if need be and try to carve out your role in the third phase of the game. I'll try to help those guys out any way I can. I feel like I'm obligated to do that as a leader on this team with some experience. You know, we're all in this together.

Q: This is Bill [Belichick's] 42nd year in the NFL. What have you noticed in your time with him that makes him the coach he is?

MS: I think the thing that's remarkable about Bill is his approach. He hasn't changed at all, and that consistency in his attitude and preparation, the things that he values and the things he tries to stress to his team. It's really remarkable. I think it would be easy for him to become complacent. It's human nature, once you have success you kind of exhale and think you have it figured out. And if anyone has it figured out it's Bill Belichick. But you wouldn't know it by the way he prepares, by the urgency with which he coaches us, the hours he puts in. That's really been impressive to me in my time here, whether we go out and win a Super Bowl or don't make the playoffs, he's always been consistent in that regard.

Q: How good of a player do you think Brandon King could be on special teams?

MS: I think he can be as good as he wants to be. I really do believe that. I've been around the game for a long time now, and I can honestly say that I haven't seen too many guys as talented as him from a physical standpoint. I think the good Lord has given him some excellent physical gifts. And I tell Brandon 'When I was a rookie I wasn't doing the things you're doing', so I really think the sky's the limit for Brandon. I think he believes that, he knows that, he's been working with purpose, and I'm excited to see what he's going to do and the type of career he's going to have.

Q: A couple weeks ago Terrance Knighton was interviewed and asked about the difference between the Patriots as opposed to where he'd been, and he talked about when you walk in to the locker room it's all business, it's all football. The coaching staff tries to create that culture, but how much of it is incumbent on the players themselves to make sure you sustain that in the locker room? Is it a case now where you guys in the locker room really instill that on the newcomers as opposed to Bill and the staff?

MS: I really think that there's only so much of an impact that a coach can have on a team if he doesn't have players that are on board with him. I like to compare our situation to other sports teams. You look at the San Antonio Spurs, and the thing you always hear is how Coach Popovich coached Tim Duncan and how Tim Duncan always fell in line, and I compare that to Tom. Coach Belichick coaches Tom hard, but Tom always does what he's asked to do, he's selfless, he puts the team first, and he works hard. And if your best player is doing that, then how are you going to do anything other than that if you're a newcomer? So, I think that it really helps to have players that buy into what coach is preaching, that really understand what we're trying to accomplish, and that is what the 'Patriot Way' is all about. It's really carried out and executed by players like Tom and Devin that have been here for a while.

Q: Is it possible to use Tom's suspension as motivation, like 'us against the world'?

MS: We always feel like we're in that boat, and that's ok. We're going to be plenty motivated, and if you're not motivated playing in the National Football League then you're probably in the wrong business. This is tough business; the demands on you are great. We know that every team we play they want to beat us, we want to beat them, and that doesn't change whether Tom is out there or not.

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