A few days after re-upping with the Patriots for a 15th season, Matthew Slater met with the media on Thursday expressing his excitement to be back pursuing his childhood dream for another year.
"I'm certainly so thankful to be sitting in this position talking to you guys this time of year as a New England Patriot, still with an opportunity to be playing the game that I love," said Slater. "Obviously, I still have a very strong love for this game and when I say that I don't just mean what happens on Sundays, I truly enjoy the preparation, the process of football more than anything. I enjoy the relationships that football has provided me with over the course of the last 14 years. Just everything that comes along with it."
The last time we heard from Slater was following the Patriots' disappointing playoff exit at the hands of their divisional rival Buffalo Bills. As a new-look 2022 squad comes together, Slater will once again pick up the mantle of being a critical team leader, a role that he's embraced over the years, while remembering his role must carry over onto the field as well.
"My role is to do my job as a football player first and foremost. I see it now at this point in time in my career, things have evolved to the point where I do have responsibilities beyond the field, whether it's continuing to cultivate the culture that we have in this place, continuing to build and share my experience with younger players, encourage the younger players and their families," said Slater. "I think the culture we've created here is bigger than any one person. There's certainly key figures you can point to like coach [Belichick] and Tom and Mr. Kraft but as far as how I do things myself here, I'm just one man. One man can only do so much. I've tried to step up my role over the years and do the best I can to lead and continue to carry on the values and pillars that this place was built upon."
But Slater won't be the only veteran leader to return, as he said he was in close contact with Devin McCourty as both were considering a return for another season. The duo has been teammates since 2010 and won three championships together while playing in five total Super Bowls.
"I was joking with [Devin]. I said 'I'm not coming back unless you're coming back,'" joked Slater. "I realize how special it is to have a chance to play alongside a guy for 13 years and Devin's not just anyone, he's one of the best men I've ever known. It's been a tremendous example for me to follow both on and off the field and honestly, at this point in my career, it would be tough playing without him. There's certain guys that you really just learn to lean on and depend on and he's one of those guys."
As for the free agency madness that litters this NFL landscape this week, Slater was paying closest attention to the players that were teammates, expressing a bittersweet feeling about seeing friends depart to other teams while resetting his focus back toward football and laying a foundation in New England this spring.
"I don't get too caught up in it, I know it's an exciting time for football and exciting time for fans and they should enjoy it but I know as far as us here we just have to focus on working and getting better," said Slater. "I don't think Bill keeps guys around just to say rah-rah-sis-cum-bah when the time comes. I think he wants me to do the things that I've always done over the course of my career both on the field and off the field. Hopefully, I hold up my end of the bargain."