After a tough loss, no one seems to put things in perspective better than Matthew Slater, who spoke with the media via Zoom on Monday afternoon.
With the special teams turning in their own sloppy play against the Saints, the 1-2 start has been a total team effort. Now, with Brady and the Bucs coming to Foxborough on Sunday night, Slater and the Patriots have their backs against the wall as the first quarter of the 2021 season comes to an end.
"This week, the New England Patriots need to focus on the New England Patriots and the things that we need to do to start playing better football, consistent football, competitive football, and it doesn't matter who we are playing this week," said Slater. "I couldn't think any higher of a player than I think of Tom Brady. I couldn't think more highly of anyone who's played the game than I think of Tom as a player, as a friend, he's been nothing but kind to me and my family.
"I understand why a lot of the conversation this week is going to be about Thomas' return and to an extent it should be, he should be celebrated, but for us who are competing on Sunday, it should be about our preparation, it should be about focus and it should be about going out and playing good winning football, regardless of who we're playing this week."
Slater is well aware of the kind of effort it will take to beat his old teammate and friend.
"We need to have a good week of preparation and be ready to fight our tails off for 60 minutes."
It's not the first time the Patriots have faced some adversity early in the season. In 2018 they also started 1-2, but this is a new team that needs to put some new roots down and prove that they too have what it takes to turn things around.
"I think in times like this when you're facing adversity, human nature is to maybe look for an excuse, maybe a point a finger," said Slater. "We can't do that, we have to stick together, we have to continue to believe in one another, fight for one another and just go back to our process.
"We're a good football team, but we have to do it."
Jonnu ready to turn the page
Sunday's loss to the Saints was a tough outing for tight end Jonnu Smith, who had just one catch in the game on six targets and saw one pass deflect off his hands to a defender who took it to the house for a pick-six.
After a strong summer where it looked like Smith would be a key part of the attack, he has yet to take flight through three games.
"Have a short-term memory," said Smith on how he puts a game like that behind him. "Even through success, in this league, you can't dwell on the week prior. You just gotta have enough mental toughness to keep moving forward no matter what was the result of last week, because it's a long season, there's a lot of football left to be played. You just gotta be able to turn that page quickly."
Despite a down game, Smith has 10 catches through the first three games, on pace to better his career-best season of 41. With a four-year deal, this is just the early phases of his time in New England, as well as with Mac Jones, who Smith said threw a ball that should've been caught on the pick-six.
"I've got to have a certain level of honesty with myself in the mirror," said Smith. "But the great thing about it is I have another opportunity. I didn't put my best product of myself out there yesterday. I know that. The whole world knows that. I know the player I am and I'm confident in the player I am and I'm just looking forward to moving forward.
"This game isn't easy... no way, form or fashion is this game easy, it's not meant to be easy. It's not meant for people who are not mentally tough because there will be certain failures, certain trials, adverse conditions that you're going to have to overcome."