The Patriots crossed one item off their off-season to-do list this Thanksgiving week. With a number of high-profile players scheduled to become free agents after this season, New England locked one of them up, reportedly inking special teams ace and co-captain Matthew Slater to a two-year, $4 million. Three-quarters of the money is said to be guaranteed.
Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 13 as the Patriots prepare to play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field this upcoming Sunday.
"I don't want to get into too much detail about it," Slater told a throng of media before Wednesday's practice. "I'm just so thankful for what the Lord has done in my life and in my career and developed me as a player and as a man. I'm thankful for an opportunity to continue that development and I'm thankful to the coaching staff, Coach Belichick, and the organization believing in me and appreciating a player like me and guys like myself across this team.
"That being said, the focus is on us preparing for Green Bay and that's all I'm concerned with and I'd much rather focus on that."
The aforementioned Bill Belichick refused to comment on Slater's new contract during his press briefing earlier in the day. He did, however, rave about Slater, the player he drafted in the fifth round in 2008. Slater, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame left tackle Jackie Slater, initially didn't have a steady position in New England, bouncing between wide receiver and defensive back for a while before finding his niche on offense and special teams.
"He's everything and more you could ever have hoped for, I'll say that," Belichick gushed. "Matt does a lot of things for us. Obviously, he's a really good player on the field; very professional, works hard, does a great job with all the players – younger players, but also his peers. He's very well respected in the locker room, not just by the players, but I'd say by the entire organization, just by the way he goes about his job, how committed he is to the team, how dependable he is, his work ethic, his attitude, his toughness. He's really pretty much a model player. I'd love to have 53 guys like him.
"Matt's improved a lot, but we drafted him as a special teams player. I'd say it was a decent pick for a guy with what his skills are, kind of a little bit ahead of [Nate] Ebner, but similar to Ebner, that type of role. We made a decent investment in him. I think we thought he'd be pretty good. But his personality, his intelligence, his toughness, his character – both on and off the field – his leadership is all exemplary. You couldn't really find anything any better."
Looking forward to Lambeau
Slater was one of several players expressing a desire to play on the road in historic Green Bay this weekend, in one of the league's most iconic venues, Lambeau Field.
It's a location that the Patriots rarely get to visit because of the way the NFL's rotational scheduling system works. Lambeau opened in 1957, when it was then known as City Stadium. It was renamed in 1965 after the death of legendary founder, player, and head coach Curly Lambeau.
"Excited about it," said an enthusiastic Slater. "A lot of history there with Curly Lambeau and everything this organization stands for. I don't think the league would be where it is without a franchise like [Green Bay]. We're excited about the challenge… going against one of the best teams in football."
"I've never played there. I heard it's a great place to play, a lot of tradition," wide receiver Danny Amendola remarked. "It's been in the NFL forever. We're all excited to go there and play."
"This is my first time playing there," echoed cornerback Darrelle Revis. "I'm looking forward to it."
The Patriots took their Wednesday walkthrough practice indoors, in part because of the inclement New England weather – a mix of rain and wet snow.
Of note, DE Chandler Jones (hip) was spotted for the first time since injuring himself in Week 7 against the Jets. Also seen was rookie OL Cameron Fleming (left ankle), who was injured late in the Indy game two weeks ago. He missed all of last week's workouts and the Lions game. Fleming had shed his medical boot Wednesday in favor of a black medical sleeve on his lower left leg.
Media were escorted out of the Dana-Farber Field House, however, before a full attendance could be taken.