SPECIAL TEAMS CAPTAIN MATTHEW SLATER
March 30, 2020
MS: First of all, good afternoon everyone. I hope everyone's doing well, staying safe, staying healthy. I hope you and your families are doing well also. Quick disclaimer, if you hear some yelling in the background, that's probably one of my three children. I'll try to keep this as quiet as possible but I know we're all in the same situation right now. Hope you guys are doing good.
Q: What have you been doing at home to stay in shape or coordinate with teammates to make sure everyone's staying on the same program without an offseason program?
MS: That's the unique challenge that we're facing right now. My wife would be the first one to tell you I've got a dozen apparatuses all around the house. The kids have become human weights and we're making do with what we have here at home. Certainly, you have the ability to go out and run by yourself and do that when the coast is clear, so to speak, but you have to be resourceful in ways that you never thought you'd have to be resourceful in. Again, it really puts things in perspective. I'm thankful to be healthy, I'm thankful to have a home to go to, I'm thankful that I have a family to support me during this time and we're going to count our blessings and stay as positive as we possibly can and make do with what we have and not complaining about it, so that's what I've been doing.
Q: How did you get the news about Tom Brady leaving for Tampa Bay and how are you processing it?
MS: I got the news I'm sure the same way many of us did, I found out through ESPN, different outlets like that or friends texting me or what have you. When you talk about Tom and everything that he's meant to this organization, our team, a lot of our identity over the last 20 years has been centered around him. Any time you transition away from a player like that, it's a tall task. There are a lot of emotions involved as you try to process it, especially for me personally. I think the one thing that I am feeling right now is a ton of gratitude. I feel a ton of gratitude towards Tom for the way he always treated me, the respect that he always showed me from the moment I walked in this locker room, the humility with which he has always carried himself and continues to carry himself with and just the friendship that we have. Certainly, I'm thankful for the experiences that he provided for me on the football field, some experiences I'll take with me and cherish the rest of my life, some magical moments being his teammate. But, I'm more grateful for his friendship, the man that he is, the way that he loves his family, the example that he left behind for so many of us and certainly "Thank you" doesn't do it justice but I have a lot of gratitude when I hear the name or think about the name Tom Brady.
Q: This year is a little different when you lose tenured guys like Tom Brady and Stephen Gostkowski, what do you have to do as a leader to help the team move on?
MS: I think the one thing is you don't want to downplay, guys like Tom and Steve and what they meant to us. You have to find a way to deal with that personally and process it. As a team, we're going to have to process the fact that Tom's gone, do it in a healthy way and then be able to move on. We're going to have to find a new identity for ourselves, but I think part of that identity is going to be built upon things that we've always stood for and will continue to stand for as long as this organization is led by the people that it's led by. I think that's going to be selflessness, hard work, making good decisions as far as how that affects the whole team, I would say doing what's best for the football team, serving one another, not having any level of expectation that things are going to be handed to us. These are the ways that we've always operated and I think we have to continue to operate in the same manner that we always have and find a new identity for ourselves. I'd be lying, or anyone would be lying, if they said that over the last 20 years, a big part of identity hasn't been centered around Tom and what he's done for us. Players come and go. The reality is no player plays forever so at some point in time, you have to have pillars that you stand upon that are not going to fall regardless of who's in or out. I think we have good pillars in place, I think we'll continue to try to push guys to seek those pillars, stand for those things and hopefully that leaves us in a good place as we head into the season and go about the process.
Q: With special teams coordinator Joe Judge departing, how do you see this transition unfolding?
MS: It's going to be challenging I think, Mike [Reiss]. Right now, we're looking at the possibility of not having an offseason at all. I think some of that acclimation process is going to have to be on the fly whenever it is that we're able to return to work. A lot of us have some familiarity with Cam [Achord] and we're really comfortable with his coaching style and we know how he likes to call the game, we know that – again, I talked about coach Achord, he's going to have the same expectations of us that has always been had of us around here and that's pride yourself on working hard, pride yourself on doing your job the right way, pride yourself on being a selfless team player and don't expect anything to be handed to you. I think Cam's going to coach us in that same style, certainly when we get into games, we'll see how he calls games differently. That will be a learning process. I'm sure there will be a lot of dialogue between him and players from now until the time we play. We're excited about the transition, it's a new challenge for all of us. It's a new year, every team, every player has to prove himself over again and that's exciting. I know Cam is up for the challenge and I know he's going to lead us in the right way.
Q: How much of a leadership void is there on this team now without Tom Brady? How are you and the other leaders taking it upon yourselves to lead the team moving forward?
MS: We can't not acknowledge the fact that Tom is gone and certainly there's going to be an evolution that occurs within our locker room, an evolution that occurs within our offense. That time was going to come in some way shape or form. What the void is, how we fill it, I can't really speak to that right now. I think it's important that guys stay within themselves, we've all been gifted to lead and do certain things in our own way and you just have to continue to do that. You don't try to do anything extra, you don't try to go above and beyond because guys are able to quickly sniff that out and know that oh, he's not being himself. Authenticity is going to be huge for all of us that are leaders on this team and for young leaders that we need to step up. We're going to have to be ourselves, we're going to have to stick to our principles and lead the best way that we can. I don't think that there should be any fear or angst as we go into kind of uncharted waters here. We should embrace the challenge, we should lean in on one another, trust our process and I think we'll be okay as far as leadership is concerned, and we'll just take things one day at a time.
Q: Have there been any talks between yourself and your teammates or yourself and the team about what steps you might take as players at home to get ready for the season?
MS: That's a good question. Right now, you look at what going on, we're being filled in as you guys are being filled in. We're taking it one day at a time and really, ultimately, there's nothing more important than the health of our country, the health of our citizens. This is much bigger than football. In the end, we can do what we do as much as we can at home, try to be creative. I know our strength coach Moses Cabrera and his staff are going to be as creative as they can with guiding us throughout the process here of the offseason. Pick and choose our spots maybe to get to a field by ourselves and run by ourselves. Right now, I think we need to be focused on keeping ourselves healthy, keeping our families healthy, keeping one another encouraged, supported. Honestly, I'm not worried about when we get back to football or how it's going to go when we get back. I think there are much more significant issues that we're facing now that will always trump football. You look at what's going on not only in our country but around the world, and I think football is far down on the list of things that I'm worried about right now and I'm sure a lot of guys feel that way. Let's stay healthy, let's obviously be productive with our time. This is not a green light for guys to go gain 30 pounds, which can easily be done when you're eating mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly with your kids, but I think let's focus on our health, let's be responsible with the opportunities that we have and then when it's time to worry about football, we'll worry about it then.
Q: How close did you come to retiring or not returning? Do you think this will make you appreciate the game even more when you do get back out there? As a special teams captain, what are your thoughts on Stephen Gostkowski's career that he had in a Patriot uniform?
MS: After the season ended, as the season went along this year, I felt really good about a lot of the things that we were doing as a team, some of the continuity that we had, the way we were able to impact a game, as far as the kicking game was concerned. As I sat down with my wife and my family and we prayed about it and thought about it, it was very clear to me that I still love this game and still feel like I have something to give to this game, whether it's physically or emotionally or in a leadership role. All aspects of the game still really make me come alive. It was clear to me that I wanted to continue to play. I didn't know what my opportunities would look like, obviously, but I'm certainly thankful that coach [Bill] Belichick still feels like I can have an impact on his football team and bring some value to his locker room. I'm really excited about the opportunity to come back. With everything that's going on in the world right now, not only does it make you appreciate football but I think it just makes you appreciate the life that we live. Each day that we have to get up and wake up in our right minds, get out of our beds, interact with our families to express the love that we have for our families with them is a blessing. I know that can be something that's cliché to say but I think now, in the time and place that we're living in with the circumstances that we're facing, it drives that point home even more than ever. Not only will I be grateful to return to football but I'm just grateful to wake up and to take a deep breath and to look at my kids and see them laugh and to see my wife look over our home. Those things are truly blessings that I think are being brought into focus more now than they ever have before. You mentioned Stephen, you really can't say enough good things about Stephen, what he's done for this organization. If you think about the beginning of his career, when he was drafted here, he was drafted to replace a guy who is maybe the best kicker in the history of the league with some of the things he's been able to accomplish. For Stephen to come in here and to just keep his head down and year after year lead by example, work at his craft, try to get himself better, be there for his teammates, be a light within the locker room that brought some laughter and joy to the locker room, the type of man that he is, the friendship that he offered to so many of us. He's another guy that you just feel a lot of gratitude towards because he did so much to lead the way. Not a guy that you talk about a ton when you talk about this dynasty if you will, if that's what you want to call it, but I think he's a guy that should be mentioned right up there along some of the guys that have really carried the flag on this. I know personally, I had a special connection with Stephen being a special teams guy. Him being a specialist, we spent a lot of time together. I'm thankful for a guy like that. He showed me how to be a pro, he showed me how to go about my business, he showed me how to at times not take this team too seriously but at the same time take it very seriously. There's a thin line there and I think he walked it as well as anyone. I'm thankful for the example that he set for me and the time we spent together and wish him nothing but the best. Whoever the next guy is, the same as the quarterback, they just have to be themselves. Be yourself, go out and do the best you can within your role and let the chips fall where they may.
Q: You talked about the transition you guys are going through as a team. You have set such a high standard for yourselves over the years. Do the goals have to change at all going into this next season?
MS: I don't think the goals change at all. The standard doesn't change at all. The pillars that we stand upon, they don't change at all. I think if you go into the season with a defeatist mindset, then you can't expect to be successful. We're not the victims here. We have a great opportunity, we have a lot of good football players, we have a tremendous coaching staff. You don't have time to waste any season in the NFL. We all know it stands for 'not for long,' and I think all of us can appreciate that a little bit more now considering the circumstances we are facing. So, we have to go into the season expecting more from ourselves than anyone outside the building expects from us. We have to go in with the same drive, the same focus, the same determination. And if we don't, we shouldn't even step foot in the building because we're already going to be beat. So, let's come in there with the same goals, and that's going to be from day one just come in working hard, doing your job, trying to perfect your craft. You're not worrying about what everybody else is doing. Let's take care of yourself first and foremost. It starts small and hopefully it grows into bigger things, but I think our mentality as a team and our approach to what we're doing has to be the same that it's always been.
Q: What is your impression of Jarrett Stidham as a rookie last season?
MS: Brother Stid is a great kid, and I think that's the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what's he motivated by? He's just a great kid to be around. He brings a lot of positive energy, he's always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he's very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he'll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn't have brought him in here if they didn't think he had those qualities. I think at that position, almost more than any other, it's going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he's got some good traits. I think he's going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it's important, and I'll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we'll just take this thing one day at a time.
Q: Do you enjoy playing football more in the NFL overall? Or is a lot of your decision to return motivated by playing football in a Patriots uniform?
MS: That's a great question. I love the game, and I've loved playing football from the time I can remember. I've said it so many times, the reason I love it so much is because I'm getting a chance to do what my daddy did. I see my son now, and he wants to do whatever I do. He's copying whatever I do. It was no different for me as a kid, and even now as an adult, I still think to myself, 'Man, I'm getting to do something my dad got to do.' I think about all the memories we had just talking about the game and his love for the game and the preparation of the game. So, certainly, I love the game. But, as I think about my career and my experience the last 12 years, I've fallen in love with this team and this organization. I love being able to represent this team, the people of this region, the fans of this team, and I hope that I represent them in a good way, in a way that they're proud of. It's hard for me personally to imagine myself playing in a different uniform at this point. I've given a lot of myself to this organization, and this organization has given a lot of themselves to me. So, it would be hard for me personally to imagine going elsewhere, but I'm just thankful for the opportunities I've had, I'm thankful I get to play the game I love and I'm thankful that I get to do it for the Patriots.
Q: Along with Stephen Gostkowski, you have to fill the void left by Nate Ebner. What has he meant to the team? You also have a couple new special teamers that have been signed in Adrian Phillips and Cody Davis. Given these extreme circumstances, have you reached out to them at all, and if not, might you do that in the future?
MS: I'll answer your latter question first. I have spoken to Cody. I've met him a couple times over the years and look forward to working with him. He's been a great player in this league for a number of years now and excited for the opportunity to play with him. I know he's excited about his opportunity to be here and certainly look forward to getting to know him better. I've heard nothing but great things about the type of person that he is. You can't have enough good people in the building, so we're excited about that. I haven't spoken to Adrian. Obviously, been a fan of his for a long time now. He's been a great player, not only in the kicking game, but I think he's shown that he can play safety in this league at a high level, as well. So, excited to work with him and hopefully we get a chance to connect here before too long. But, looking forward to bringing those new guys into the fray and kind of getting them caught up to speed on how we do things and also learning a thing or two from them. You know, you can never be in a place where you're unable to receive from someone else. So, looking forward to learning from them, as well. And you asked about Nate – man, I think for me, I've worked more closely with Nate than any player on our roster over the last eight years, by a long shot. I've spent more time in meetings, more time on the practice field with Nate Ebner than any player, maybe in my career. So, his value to what we did in the kicking game, it just was off the charts. It would never be something that gets talked about because there's so many intricacies within the kicking game that get overlooked, but the things that he has done for our football team on and off the field over the last eight years have been tremendous. I know personally as a player, no player has challenged me more, has pushed me more, has gotten more out of me as a teammate than him. I certainly thanked him for that when I found out that he was leaving, but I certainly am going to miss that. What he did for us as a communicator, you think of him almost as a third coach on the field. He did so much and he got guys lined up, he got guys on the same page, and he did it not only year after year, but week after week, day after day. I mean, he was so consistent in what he brought to the table. So, that's going to be a big role for us to fill, and certainly again, I can't emphasize this enough – when you're a guy coming in trying to replace a guy who's maybe been somewhere for a long time, you've just got to be yourself. So, whoever that guy is, whatever he's asked to do, he doesn't need to be Nate Ebner. He needs to be himself and be the best version of himself for our football team. Certainly, that will be a challenge, but we welcome that challenge. We'll get guys acclimated as quickly as possible, if they have questions, we'll be there to answer them, and try to get everyone on the same page. That's the nature of this league, and all these guys that have left over the last couple weeks, I hope they go to their new teams and play outstanding. I'll be rooting for them all, just like I always have. And in house, we're going to have to just, again, lean on one another, try to bring out the best in one another and be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, and hopefully that's good enough at the end of the day. We'll take it one day at a time.