Special Teams Captain Matthew Slater
Q: How's it feel to be back?
MS: It's exciting. It's always exciting to start a new year with a clean slate, with a new group of guys. I say it every year - it's like the first day of school, so we're excited to be back, excited to go back to work.
Q: I know you visited two other teams as a free agent, did you think you'd be here on this day?
MS: I had belief in the Lord's plan that I was going to be where He wanted me, and this is where He wanted me so thankful to be here.
Q: You guys are obviously at different points in your careers, some here for the first time, some like [Tom] Brady in his 19th year, 41 years old. Knowing your background with Tom, when you walk in here today, see him grinding away like he's 30, 25, what comes to your mind?
MS: I certainly think you have to take the time to pause and be appreciative of an athlete like that. What he's been able to accomplish is special and to be able to witness it up close and personal is really a blessing. I'm thankful to have learned from him as a professional, to see the way he goes about his craft, to see his desire to prepare himself so he can be successful. It's really something to watch. I'm thankful to be witnessing greatness.
Q: How much time have you put into the new kickoff rules?
MS: Well, certainly it's something that we've covered over the course of the spring, kind of familiarizing ourselves with the changes and the way the play is going to be executed. I think during training camp and the preseason we'll really get a feel for how it's going to play itself out. I've said it before, I'm thankful that they were willing to save the play and make changes as opposed to just abolishing the play. Hopefully the changes yield the results that we're looking for from a player safety standpoint and, hopefully, they still provide the excitement that the kickoff has always provided.
Q: Do you know all the rules yet? Because Terry McAulay, former ref who's now with NBC I think, he said one of the things people aren't talking about is the kickoff is really going to be messed up and there's all these little things they're tinkering with - do you know what the final set of rules look like?
MS: Yeah, I would say for the most part. I feel pretty comfortable - now there are a few nuances that I'm sure over the course of training camp we'll have to get ironed out with the refs as they figure out how they're going to officiate the play. But I think Joe [Judge] has done a good job of going over the rules with us from the back on up. From how the wedge play is going to look, how front line play is going to look and flip it over on coverage, what our alignment is going to look like, what we can't do as far as chipping guys as we run down the field, things of that nature. I feel like we got a decent grasp on it but training camp will allow us to fully digest it.
Q: Have you gotten a feel for whether or not that will favor one side more than the other?
MS: It's really tough to say. Until we really get into live situations, game-type situations, it's going to be tough to say one way or another. You know, special teams is one of the hardest things to simulate in practice because the speed is just, you know, so hard to reproduce. I think once we get into preseason, all of us will have a better feel for that.
Q: One of the things that Cordarrelle Patterson said when he talked to us in the spring is, he said, "Doesn't matter what it looks like. I can run through pretty much anything." What are your impressions of him, as a kick returner, what he can do for you guys?
MS: Well, I've been watching him since he came in the league and I think we've talked at length about what he has from a physical standpoint that has enabled him to have success in this league. His size, his speed, you know he runs through a lot of arm tackles. I can attest to that, personally. When you got a guy that big and explosive and he's got the right mindset, he wants to be aggressive, it's definitely a good thing. It's not just up to him though, it's up to us, the guys blocking for him, to make sure that we give him the opportunity to utilize his skill set.
Q: Have you had a full team meeting with players and coaches yet?
Q: What is the opening statement or theme for the season?
MS: Oh, I can't get into that. Family business. I respect the question though.
Q: Matthew, you mentioned that this is like the first day of school. You've been around for a while now and in the league for a while, how has this day changed for you, reporting back to camp, not only from a physical standpoint but mentally?
MS: I think the biggest thing that's changed for me is perspective. As a player, oftentimes you don't really take the time to pause and realize how blessed you are to be living out many of our childhood dreams. I think as a young player, you're so caught up in trying to do everything you can to stick around and make the team and you don't really take pause to take time and do that. Now, granted I'm still caught up in those things, but I've tried to take time and step back and maintain perspective and realize that hey, I play a game for a living. I'm not out fighting fires, I'm not out on the battlefield, I'm playing football and we really are blessed. I think that's become more a part of preparation, is keeping things in balance and maintaining perspective. I think the hunger to be successful, to grind, to work hard is always going to be there for me. That's just the way I was raised. But I think that's been the biggest change for me personally.
Q: Do you try to pass that perspective on to some of the rookies and undrafted guys?
MS: If I can, absolutely. You know, this is a game and I think it was meant to be fun and I hope those guys enjoy it. It's a tough grind and we all know the business side of things. We start with 90 and we go to 53 but I hope that those guys can appreciate what they've accomplished with getting into a training camp, not being complacent and satisfied, but being thankful for the opportunity.
Q: Matthew, obviously the national anthem is media-wise, still a big story, involved in talks with the league in trying to hash out -
MS: Well, I can't really get into what I've been involved in and what I haven't. I'll say this, we all know how that issue has affected our league, our country. As a Christian, I believe it's my responsibility to show people the love of Christ and how I deal with Him in my relationships, to invest in our youth, to invest in people and the human side of things, and that's the way I want to handle that. I can only speak for how I'm going to handle it. I'm always going to be viewing things from a Christ-centered lens and that's how I'm going to be moving forward.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the NFL was re-thinking the anthem policy?
MS: Didn't really have one.
Q: Weren't you involved in some of the talks in the offseason?
MS: Can't comment on that.
Q: Kind of following up on the Tom [Brady] question earlier, this is your 11th year-do you ever go back and look at the draft list of the guys you got drafted with, that class you came in with? A lot of them never made it, stuck around for a bit, retired early-just kind of your thoughts on being a survivor?
MS: Yeah. You know, I've been blessed. Most of the credit goes to the Lord. He's preserved me, He's shown me favor here in being with this great organization. You know, Chad O'Shea brings that list out often, maybe this time of year every year, with Julian [Edelman] and I. There are a lot of great players on that list, talented guys. But the NFL is a funny game the way things work out with guys' careers, injuries, things of that nature. As I said earlier, I really feel like I owe my success to a lot of people and obviously, you know how I feel, what I believe, the Lord has taken care of me, but people around me have enabled me to get to this point and I'm very thankful.
Q: Matt, this is your 11th year and you still manage to have an excitement for the game. How do you manage to stay measured and bring that excitement every game?
MS: Man, I just love this game. I've been around this game my entire life. The person in the world I look up to the most and has been the biggest influence on my life absolutely loves the game of football and that's my father. So, I don't know if it's just a father-son thing or what it is but I appreciate not only this game, the competition, the teamwork, the camaraderie, but just the lessons that come along with it, the relationships that you have, the accountability that you have to your teammates. There's really nothing like it in my opinion. So, I mean if you can't get excited about doing this, then perhaps it's time for me to look elsewhere. But I'm far from that point so I'm loving it.
Q: Your father had a long career. Did he give you any advice about having a long career? What to do to have a long career?
MS: There's certainly been a lot of things we've talked about, especially on the back nine now. There's a lot of things he did to give himself a chance to be successful late in his career. I won't get into detail on that but again, he's been a tremendous resource for me. Thanks guys.
Safety Devin McCourty
Q: How's your brother fitting in?
DM: I guess he's doing OK. It's our first day, but I think he's doing pretty good. I just told him to just act like me as much as possible.
Q: How excited are you to get into this new season? Is today like the first day of school?
DM: Yeah, guys I think are all working out all offseason. You kind of come in today, you want to kind of showcase that passing the conditioning test, feeling good about it. So, it's an exciting time, I think, for all of us. Obviously, no one loves training camp and doing everything that comes as a part of that and sleeping in the hotel. But, I think the excitement of a new team, coming back together with some guys and new faces and trying to blend all that together - that challenge is tough, but once it comes together, I think you kind of realize when you look back at like this time of the effort and everything you put into it hopefully results into something that you really like.
Q: Does that change throughout the years, from the first couple of years until now? Or do you still get that feeling when you report?
DM: You still get that feeling, but I think the stage you're at in your career changes. You know, I think when I was young, I was just always worried about how I was going to fit in, what I needed to do to be better. I think now, as you get older, you kind of think more as a team concept of, 'How do I get everyone on the same page?' You still have your individual goals of getting better and trying to be a good player, but you also think about how to get everything rolling on the same page, especially from our perspective defensively of trying to be a leader on a unit that's good, obviously starting in the secondary of having a good secondary. And I think you think about all that stuff coming together, trying to start sooner than later.
Q: When you see the oldest guy on the team, Tom Brady, still grinding away in his 19th year, what comes to mind?
DM: I think we're spoiled, though. I think we're so used to that. You don't think about it. Tom is who Tom is. You know, every day you know you're going to get him in here early, leaving late, working hard, encouraging guys. The thing I've loved about him since I've been here - he's always a guy that you can look up to. He's always an example. You don't have to sit there and ask him a ton of question about what he does, how hard he [works] - you just watch him and you can see it. I think anybody who steps foot in the building, you kind of see that right away. So, since I've been here, he's always a guy, you know, he's in the early part of camp, he's kind of full-go. As soon as guys are reporting, he's always already ready to go. You know, it's so normal for especially a guy like me. It's my ninth year, so I've gotten to watch that nine years in a row that I don't even think about it. But, as you said, to see him still grinding, I don't know if I could pull that off for 19 years. You know, I think it's a huge part of the team's success and being able to watch him and his leadership.
Q: What's it like not having Matt Patricia, Malcolm Butler and other familiar faces around?
DM: Normal. I think every year it's kind of like that. Whether it was Vince Wilfork or Jerod Mayo, it always feels like it's something else. Last year, it was Logan [Ryan] not being here and getting used to that. So, it's just a part of the year, and I think that's why this time is always very exciting and nerve-racking because it's everything. It's new guys, it's old guys, it's coming together to start to build the 2018 team, which like we always talk about, is going to be different than '17, '16. It always is. So, with that, we have guys that have been here for a while that are not here, and we can't think about that. We've just got to get ready to go with who's here.
Q: What was your thought when you saw that the NFL kind of pumped the brakes on the new national anthem policy?
DM: You see how it all works out. I think for us and I know for me, a lot of what I've focused on has been what you've seen throughout the offseason, doing different things, a DA forum, different op-eds. That will continue to be my focus. So, with the anthem policy, we'll see how it comes out and what happens, but the work off the field, to me, is what's been very encouraging throughout the league, seeing guys in different cities doing things. You know, I think with the anthem policy, obviously that's what you guys have to cover. Hopefully you put a little side note and throw in things that guys have been doing because I think that's more important than whatever anthem policy.
Q: I know you've been working with the Players Coalition throughout the spring. Has the league reached out to you now to help work through the policy?
DM: Well, no, they've been involved in us doing things, not the policy. The Players Coalition is mainly focused on off the field, doing things like that, not the anthem policy and the anthem overall. So, no, not that part, but they've been involved in doing different things throughout the country.
Q: Have the owners reached out to the players or is it just with NFLPA leadership?
DM: Yeah, that's PA and NFL.
Q: Do you feel that the players are getting a bad rap and the good work that you're doing in the community has been ignored?
DM: No, it just needs more coverage. You know? Just keep giving us more coverage. I think the more it's written about and talked about, I think it comes to the forefront. But, I think like obviously with training camp coming back, the preseason in two weeks, we'll probably be bombarded with a ton of anthem stories. I'm sure as the weeks go on, you guys will ask me about the anthem more. So, don't worry, I'll keep having good off-the-field things that we've been doing to tell you. So, you probably won't hear about the anthem, but I'll keep trying to bring those things to the spotlight.
Q: What do you have planned next?
DM: I think one of the things that we're talking about now is trying the different recommendations of the funding for schools throughout Massachusetts. There are some areas that are poverty stricken that need more funds that don't get it, so obviously Massachusetts has one of the best public school systems in the country, but there are schools, like in Brockton, where kids are struggling because they just need more funding. So, trying to change that. There's a bill that passed through the Senate, so trying to get it passed through the House now. Myself, Slate [Matthew Slater] and Jason [McCourty] wrote an op-ed on that that posted yesterday. So, that's one thing that we're kind of focused on now, but still balanced now that we're in training camp.
Q: Is it going to be hard to keep that positive momentum going during the season?
DM: No, we've already mapped out what you can and can't do - like, it's just different. In the spring, we're balancing family time and doing stuff like that. Now, with the season, you have the season and family, and then when we still can, we'll do things. But no, we all are older guys and realize it's a balance of understanding what you can and can't do.
Q: Do you think there could be a compromise with the anthem that makes everyone happy?
DM: Yeah, like you said earlier, I think that's a good thing what you're seeing right now between the PA and the NFL working towards that. So, I think that's what they're doing, and I think hopefully something good comes out of it.
Q: Do you feel for Malcolm Mitchell and how he's been snake-bitten with injuries during his time here?
DM: Yeah, that's my guy. [He is a] younger guy that obviously you see a lot of him working his butt off to try to get back out there. It's just sometimes, you know, he's kind of battled through injuries and being out there, but he's been a good player when he's been out there - very effective for us. But, I think the good thing about him is his spirits are always high. He's always continuing to work. Like he's not discouraged at all. He continues to put in the work and try to get out there and do whatever he has to do. So, I keep encouraging him, keep him going, but I don't know if you guys have talked to Malcolm, you can tell he has a good head on his shoulders and knows what he's doing. t
Center David Andrews
Q: Is it different for you this season coming in as a captain and being considered a veteran on this roster?
DA: No, I think you just approach each year as the same. You've got to kind of start at ground zero here. We've got a lot to work on. I've got a lot to work on, and that's why we've got these weeks of training camp. I just try to take it day by day and really approach it the same that I have my whole career.
Q: We often here from players that this is an ongoing process to get "where we want to be." Where exactly is that? Is that the Super Bowl?
DA: I mean, I think everyone's obvious goal is to go out there and play and win games. You win enough games, the result is obvious. I think for us, right now, it's just we've got to go out there and get better every day. We've got to form that team. It's kind of a new group every year. We've got a lot of things we've got to work on and we'll start here in the morning. I think it's just improving each week, each day, and that's just what we try to do.
Q: If there were a list of goals to accomplish throughout the season, would winning the division be at the top of it given that it would be the surest springboard to the playoffs?
DA: I think there's, obviously, things like that, but that stuff's going to happen a lot later in the year. Right now training camp is really that main goal. Training camp is fun. It's a lot of competition, things like that, where we can work on each other. We'll just try and start building that process to get to that point.
Q: Is it good to have Coach Dante Scarnecchia back as your position coach for another season?
DA: Yeah, I've got a lot of respect for Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] and what he does. He's been doing it a long time. I think as a player - seeing that - it speaks volumes to how committed he is and how much he really does want to do this. It's been awesome getting to learn from Scar and getting to play for him.
Q: Is it strange not having Nate Solder here?
DA: That's just, unfortunately, the business. Like I said earlier, each year has been different; different teams. It's kind of crazy when you think about it, but that's just how it is. Nate was always great to me, a great teammate and I wish him all the best.
Q: Are you looking forward to all of the competition that lies ahead on the offensive line throughout training camp?
DA: Yeah, I think there's competition every year and I think you need that competition to really push yourself and become a better football player. I think that's where you see a lot of growth in guys, is competing. Not only competing against the defense and defensive lineman, but within a group and that's just part of it, too.
Q: As a veteran player, how would you say your relationship with Bill Belichick has evolved since your rookie season?
DA: I've always had a lot of respect for Coach [Bill Belichick]. I think it is kind of crazy to think of [myself] as a veteran player. It's only my fourth year. But Coach has always been good to me and I really respect him and he's a heck of football coach.
Q: Have you gotten to spend a lot of time with Isaiah Wynn, and what have been your first impressions of him?
DA: Yeah, I mean, I played with Isaiah at Georgia. Isaiah's a great guy. I'm excited that he's on our football team. I think he's a good football player. Like the rest of us, he's got a lot of work to do. I've always liked Isaiah.
Q: Given that there has not been much physicality on the field during the offseason workouts, has Isaiah been able to keep up with you guys as far as the mental aspect of the game is concerned?
DA: The learning curve as a rookie is so tough. Personally, as a rookie, I remember being in his situation. It can get overwhelming and I think that's what you've got to try to do, is not let it overwhelm you. There's going to be stuff you don't know. You're going to mess up, but it's not making those continuous mistakes and things like that. It'll be big for all of us to mesh and grow and not make the mistakes moving forward. We'll see.
Q: Do you feel for your teammate, Malcolm Mitchell, and how he has been sort of snake-bitten with injuries throughout his time here?
DA: I'm not quite sure. Malcolm's a great guy, a great competitor. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of this game.
Q: With Tom Brady going into this 19th season, does he continue to amaze you every day that he steps in and what he's able to do throughout training camp?
DA: Yeah, you know, you've got to have a lot of respect for that guy. Just seeing what he does day in and day out, the same drive and focus that he's had, in my - now going on our fourth training camp together, I guess - so it's kind of crazy to see all of the things that he's accomplished and things like that, and still has that drive and things like that. It's a great quality of his and something you look up to.
Q: What are some of the things that he has taught you that have helped you throughout your career?
DA: He's taught me a lot. I think you can learn a lot from just watching people and just kind of soaking things in like that. It's not always what people say or may say to you. It can just be something as little as watching somebody and seeing how they approach things, how they carry themselves. I think you can learn a lot from people like that.
Q: How has your perspective changed heading into training camp from your time as a rookie to now?
DA: I don't think it has changed that much. I think it's big to just come into each training camp and go to work for a job. I think if you look at it like that, with that competitiveness and non-complacency, if you look at it in those ways, I think it's going to work out the best for you.
Q: Is there one thing you know now that you wish you knew as a rookie?
DA: Relax. Take a deep breath. It will be alright.
Q: Is there any part of you that is surprised or shocked at how big Trent Brown is?
DA: No, I mean, he's a big guy. There's been a lot of big guys in this league that I've come across, especially in college, too. He's a massive guy. I wouldn't have wanted to feed him as a child, that's for sure.
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