PATRIOTS WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
Q: How does it feel to finally be back out here practicing in pads?
MS: [I'm] thankful. I'm thankful at every opportunity that I have to take the field, but it's good to be back out there and start working on the things that I need to work on. I have to prepare myself for the season. I'm a little bit behind so I've got a little bit of catching up to do, but it's good to be back out there.
Q: Was the injury anything serious or just general maintenance?
MS: I'm back out here now, so I'm happy to be back.
Q: Why did you spend so much time working individually with the coaches?
MS: That's what they wanted me to do today, so stick to the plan.
Q: Would you rather be with everybody else?
MS: I'd rather do whatever Coach [Bill] Belichick wants me to do when I come out here. Whatever that means, I'm going to do it.
Q: Are those one-on-one sessions with the coaches more about working on the fundamentals, and how much do you still look at the little aspects like that this late in your career?
MS: Yeah, they're definitely a fundamental approach. I think that's where Coach Belichick and Coach [Joe] Judge want me to focus on right now. I think that's what this time of year is about. No matter where you are in your career you need to focus on those things because they need to be second nature when you get to the games and you need to be able to execute them. We're going to keep working at that stuff and hopefully progress day by day.
Q: How difficult is it to not be out there on Day 1 of training camp?
MS: Oh, it's tough. You want to be out there with your teammates. You want to go through the process. You want to go through the suffering of camp with them, but sometimes those things are out of your control. Our medical staff and our coaches have always done what they think is best for my health as a player over the course of my career. It was no different in this case. Now I feel good and I'm out there. I'm happy to be out there.
Q: Do you feel like you're competing for a job even at this point in your career?
MS: Absolutely. Every year I've been here I've had to compete for a job, especially with my role, what it is on the team. The lifespan of players like myself is usually not a very long one.
Q: So you've never been comfortable in your time here?
MS: I'm not comfortable as I stand here right now.
Q: What are your thoughts of that core special teams group as a whole right now?
MS: Everybody's doing what they can day by day to get themselves better. I guess there's a sense of urgency you have this time of year understanding that it's football season and there's a lot of work to be done. To the man, everyone has to take it upon themselves to do what they need to do to prepare every day to get better. I'm proud of that group and the strides that everyone's making.
Q: Did you have a relationship with another core special teamer, Eddie Pleasant, from his time down in Houston?
MS: An on-the-field relationship, which wasn't always pleasant.
Q: If I recall, didn't you guys get into it a little bit during a game last year?
MS: No, him and I - we've always been just competitors going at it. I have a lot of respect for what he does, the way that he competes. I think there's a lot I've probably taken from him over the years just by the style that he plays. It's good to have him here.
Q: How important is it for you to listen to your body and take the time needed to return to full strength while also realizing there is a sense of urgency in training camp?
MS: Yeah, it's important. I think there's a thin line between taking the time and being back out here. I don't do a very good job of listening to my body all the time, so I'm trying to learn that even in Year 11. Again, I'm thankful for our training staff and our coaching staff for kind of walking me through this.
Q: How quickly have your eleven years in the NFL gone by?
MS: Man, it's really hard to put into words how quickly it's gone by. I feel like just yesterday I was in that field house doing rookie mini-camp, trying to figure out where I was, didn't know what was going on and here it is, Year 11. I feel very fortunate, very blessed, but when you think about the lifespan of an NFL player and a career, it's very short. Time goes by very quickly, so you've got to try to cherish it and make the most of it.
Q: If you could have made that deal years ago - 11 years in the NFL - would you have taken it on the spot?
MS: Man, absolutely. I was just trying to make a practice squad my rookie year. I didn't know what my future would be in this league, and I'm very grateful for everything I've been able to accomplish here.
Q: Do you still feel like you have a lot of good football left in you?
MS: Absolutely. I mean, it's no mystery a guy in Year 11 is not a spring chicken, but I still love the game, I still love to compete, I still feel like I have a lot to give. So, I'm going to just keep taking that mindset on every day.
Q: How much insight can you give to the rookies that are in the situation you were in 11 years ago trying to make the team?
MS: You know, hopefully I can speak more to the mental challenge of being in that position and try to give those kids some advice and wisdom. I'll try to impart any advice I have as a player and the things that I've learned over the years. I think it's your responsibility as a veteran player to pass it along, to keep the spirit of the game, the spirit of competition moving from generation to generation and the love and appreciation for the game of football. So, I'll try to do that as best I can.
Q: You talked about a guy in Year 11 not being a spring chicken. What's a guy in Year 19 like?
MS: Well, that's Benjamin Button - a totally different situation. I mean, we're all - look, every year that passes by, and no matter what profession you're in, it's a year of change, it's a year of difference in your life personally, things happen. That's life, and life really goes by quickly. You all know that. So, I'm just trying to take it in stride and enjoy that.
Q: Is there any shot at 19 years for you?
MS: Unless my name is Jackie [Slater], I don't think so.
Q: Does it ever strike you that Bill Belichick is well into his 60's and out here in 90-degree weather and just grinding every day?
MS: I mean, sometimes it feels like he's a machine. You know, the motivation hasn't changed since I've gotten here, the hunger. The bar has been set high long ago and it continues to remain high, and I think that's a testament to who he is, how he's wired, his love for the game of football, the passion that he has for it. It's really remarkable, and hopefully as sports fans, we can appreciate what he's in the midst of doing and just enjoy this whole thing.
Q: It really is unique in that he's in the middle of it and everyone reacts to whatever he says. It's almost militarily commanding.
MS: Well, I mean, he's a leader of everything that goes on on this football field. I mean, it probably begins and ends with him. I know he's quick to deflect that and say it's about players, but I think you can't say enough about what he's done and what he's put in place here. It sounds kind of cliché, but the "Patriot way" - it begins and ends with him and Mr. [Robert] Kraft. So, it's really remarkable.
Q: When he deploys a lineman to catch a punt or ends practice with the offense on defense, for a lot of us, it might strike us as a surprise. What does that show about his sense for the football team, and what does it do for the football team?
MS: He's always had a good gauge on the team, where we're at, what we need, when we need it, when to push, when to draw back. He's got a unique feel for that kind of stuff. And to the outside world or someone who's not in there with him every day, it may seem like he's way out of touch, but that's not the case. I think that he's shown that to me, he's proved that to me year-in and year-out that he's always going to try to do what's best for the team so that ultimately we can be successful.
PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
Q: Can you take us through the two plays the defense ran against the offense when the two sides switched roles?
DM: We need a lot of practice. We need a little bit more rules. There was no running game. I don't know, you guys were kind of far, but I mean, we dropped like nine into coverage and rushed two. They had a little bit of an advantage because they rushed Trent [Brown] so that's like rushing three. It's tough for us on offense, but hopefully we do it again and we get another shot at those guys.
Q: It looked like you were doing more game situations today. Is that leading up to the first preseason game?
DM: It always feels like training camp - I think that the years I've been here you always know situational football is a huge part of what Bill [Belichick] teaches us. Every time we get further into camp, situations build. So, like the ones we did Saturday, we start to do those again but then we're adding. Just from watching practice, there's always going to be more, whether it be two-minute, no-huddle, short-yard. As we're starting to put those things together and become a smart football team, you're going to see more of that.
Q: So more stuff is added?
DM: Yeah, we're always going to keep adding. Obviously, with the preseason coming, but even in the spring, you know as we go on, he still adds all of those different situations in there.
Q: Does it feel different that you don't have a team you're having joint practices with this year?
DM: Yeah, I think because since I've been here, maybe we've had one off year. But it seems like we've always had one or two teams where it kind of just changes the camp mentality of us going at each other, back and forth, to it turning into all of us having one common opponent, and we've always loved it. But this year, we have to continue to work with each other and still compete and get each other better each day.
Q: Any idea why you guys made that switch this year?
DM: Like with practices? I don't know. That's above my pay grade.
Q: How much has Bill changed since you've been here? Is he slowing down a little bit?
DM: I don't think so. I mean, you can't ask me like my first four years because I didn't know what was going on anyway. But no, I feel like we're always going at it. I think the cool thing is adding that period at the end where we go offense-defense. But ,they've done that before, not since I've been here, but things like that I think. [Chris] Hogan's playing corner, it gives him perspective and I think it helps us bond as a team. All of those things that we do are a lot of fun.
Q: It's 95 degrees and he's standing out there in that blue pullover and visor. At 66 years old, is that not remarkable?
DM: Yeah, but I feel like I still see those same throwback pictures when he was standing wearing the same gear. So, I don't know if he's slowing down or for him it's just a continuous thing that he just keeps at it. Trust me, he's still on us, from when I got here until now, so that hasn't changed.
Q: Have you shopped for No. 12 yet for his 41st birthday tomorrow?
DM: Nah, he doesn't fit my list of gifts for people. You can see right here my hands are full with trying to find gifts.
Transcripts are provided by the Patriots media relations department as a courtesy to the media and are edited for readability. All press conferences are posted and archived in their entirety at patriots.com.