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Transcript: Matthew Slater Press Conference 12/28

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater addresses the media at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, December 28, 2017.

Q: How much of dealing with the cold is physical and how much of it is mental?

MS: I certainly think it's 50-50. There are things you can do as a player to make sure you keep yourself warm. Obviously, continue moving on the sidelines when you're not in the game, utilize modern technology with the heated benches. I bet you Bart Starr didn't have those. Then I think, obviously, mentally you have to be able to focus on doing your job and just executing. I think if you start overthinking it then it takes the focus away from your execution and doing what you need to do on the field.  

Q: Have you ever thought about growing a beard or some type of bushy facial hair that could probably keep your face warm?

MS: I would love to but I'm unable to. That is my dream one day to possibly have a fierce beard but I'm unable to at this point in time in my life.

Q: As a speed guy, how much does stretching play a big part in trying to get your preparation right, especially on cold days like this?

MS: It's big. You've got to make sure you're loose. As soon as you tighten up then obviously you're not going to be able to run as well as you normally would. So I think staying loose is a big part of it, continuing to move, as I said, utilizing the resources that we have because as a speed guy you can't stand around in this and then expect to be able to go and have a burst if you're cold. It's not going to go well for you. So staying loose and staying into the game is a big part of it.
Q: Do you ever see the indoor practice bubble and think if you're not going to use it on a day like today then what's the point of even having it?

MS: You know, we're going to play outside so we need to practice execution becomes game reality. Hopefully we executed today in that climate because I think it's going to be something similar to it on Sunday. So I understand why Coach [Bill Belichick] had us out there.

Q: Is there a benefit to this game on Sunday that there is still something to shoot for with that number one seed?

MS: Well I mean we certainly have every reason in the world to come out and be competitive and play to win this game. I said it earlier in the week, there are so few opportunities in this league to go out and perform on a game day. It's not like the other major sports in North America where you have unlimited games to go out there. We have 16 opportunities that we're guaranteed to go out there and compete over the course of a calendar year. So when you have that opportunity it doesn't matter what's in play, what the stakes are, you're going to have plenty of motivation. But the fact that we have the potential one seed in play, that's obviously a little bit extra. No question. 

Q: As the special teams captain, you've seen this group ride the wave over the course of the year. Are you happy with where you guys are as a group of special teamers now?

MS: I think we've taken a lot of positive strides in the right direction. Obviously, we've had to adjust this year with guys being out from time to time. Obviously, losing Nate [Ebner] was huge for us, but I think that the guys that have come in and start to integrate - guys like [Nicholas] Grigsby and guys like Geneo [Grissom] that have come in and really helped us, give us a boost down the stretch. I think we're in good position, but I don't think we'll ever be at the place where we think, 'Okay we've got this figured out.' There's always room for improvement. We feel that way each and every week and it's important that we improve every week from here on out and hopefully play our best ball towards the end.

Q: When you have new bodies coming in and out like that, does it limit the number of things you guys can do on special teams?

MS: Well I mean obviously with a guy like Nate [Ebner] not in there with the experience that he has and the experience that a lot of us have with playing with him, it may change a thing or two. But as I've said, the guys that have come in have done a great job. They've picked up on things. We've spent a lot of time in the meeting rooms talking about how we want to play the game. I think Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] have done a good job of preparing those guys and I think overall the drop off hasn't been too great. It's been good. It's been encouraging.

Q: Is there any feeling that when a new guy comes in that you guys take special teams a little more seriously than they might have in the past?

MS: I think it's understood when you get here right away, when you have a head coach who believes in the kicking game and kind of builds his roster around having those kind of guys available, the new guys see that right away. Again, I reference Nicholas Grigsby, just the buy in that he's shown. His ability to come in and pick things up quickly and understanding what his role is on the team and really buying into that. It's been big for us. So I think that's usually the case when new guys come along. They understand, 'Okay this is a little bit different than other places I've been. They don't just say special teams is important, they show it through their preparation and through the way the roster is built.' Usually the guys get on board with that pretty quickly.

Q: Can you give us a few words on the addition of James Harrison to the defense?

MS: We're excited to have No. 92 out there. Certainly a player of his caliber that's accomplished all that he has over the course of his career, any time you can add a guy like that it's exciting. I know James understands this as a professional. We're all going to have to work at it. We're all going to go out there each and every day hoping to execute at a high level. It doesn't guarantee us anything because he's here. It doesn't mean we're going to be better. It doesn't mean we're going to be worse. But we are excited to have him. Any time you can add a player like that it's very exciting.

Q: Do you think it's tough to gel and come in so late in the season with the team?

MS: I'm sure there will be some hurdles there, but a guy with his experience and couple that with the type of guys we have on defense - how welcoming they are, how eager they are to make guys feel like 'Alright you're a part of this deal' - I feel good about our chances there. I feel good about what we'll potentially be able to do moving forward. 

Q: How much have you seen Joe Judge and Ray Ventrone evolve as coaches in your time working with them?

MS: I've never been asked to evaluate a coach. Yeah, you know, I think they've obviously both come into their own. I think they feel very confident in what they're doing, and that goes back to their preparation. They spend a lot of time preparing this team, getting themselves ready to call the game. They spend a lot of time with Coach [Bill] Belichick doing that. I think they both have a lot of confidence in what they're doing because of that preparation. They've been in a lot of big situations at this point. They've been in some big games. We've made some big plays in big situations, and I think that gives them a lot of confidence, and in turn, that gives us as players a lot of confidence. I really feel like we're fortunate to have two relatively young coaches with a lot of energy and zeal for the kicking game leading the way for us.

Q: Grigsby has made some hits on kickoff coverage that have jumped off the screen. Have you guys noticed the same kind of thing from him?

MS: It's hard to miss. That guy has delivered some blows out there, there's no question. He's been a great addition to us. I think his overall attitude has been tremendous since he's gotten here. His buy-in, like I said, has been great. And then physically, he's really gifted. With the size that he has, the power, explosiveness and to be able to run the way that he does at that size reminds me of a player, Tracy White, that was here years ago - similar guys, similar playing styles. So, we're excited to have him. It fires us up when we see him go out there and lay some bodies down. So, hopefully he can keep it up.

Q: How important is home field advantage in the playoffs?

MS: Well, I mean, we really feel like Foxborough is a very difficult place to come and play, especially this time of year. We feel like we have a great fan base who understands the importance of playoff football and what it means to have him with us. So, it's very important. It's certainly very important. Your routine is so much different when you're at home than it is on the road. I think, all in all, it's obviously more ideal for teams that are able to play at home. So, we have that opportunity this weekend, but it's not about us going out there thinking about, 'Oh, we've got to win this game so we can get the No. 1 seed.' It's about us going out there being prepared to execute against the Jets, the New York Jets, because they're going to be ready to go. They compete, they're coached well and that's where our focus is.

Q: For younger guys on the team who aren't used to playing an opponent twice in one season, are there nuances they have to pick up when preparing for an AFC East team the second time around?

MS: Well, certainly. I think there are a couple things. You obviously go back and watch the film from your first game, but then I think you see how the team has evolved over the course of the season. You can't assume that OK, we played the Jets Week 5 of the season, that they're the same team now. They are different people out there, they're doing different things, they're a much better football team, so I think as a young player, understanding that is important. It's an important part of the process - OK, what can I learn from our previous game, but then also, how have these guys changed? I think Coach Belichick does a good job of not only preparing our young players to understand that and do that but the veterans, as well.

Q: What impact does the cold weather have on the kicking game, specifically distance of kicks and punts, and how do you have to adjust to that?

MS: Well, if you get a day like today, I don't think you're going to see very many touchbacks. This weather affects the kicking game before it affects any other aspect of the game. The ball's not going to carry as far. Obviously, Stephen [Gostkowski], Ryan [Allen], it makes their job a little bit tougher navigating, 'OK, do I want to project it this way and do I have to play the wind,' and things like that. So, and then from a coverage standpoint, the blocks are going to be on you quicker, things are happening a little bit faster because of the distance of the kicks. So, there's a bit of an adjustment there that you have to be ready for. But, I think once you get out there and see what the elements give you, then it is what it is and you're in it and you've got to execute.

Q: Is the football slicker in the cold?

MS: It can be. It can be. The ball is harder, so that certainly makes ball security become more of an issue. I think you have to be more conscious of protecting the football, fielding the football. It's just overall taking care of the football.

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