Now in his 13th season, Matthew Slater remains one of the bedrock leaders for the Patriots. Slater's special teams play has backboned multiple Super Bowl titles and his post-game speeches are the glue that has capped off many Patriots victories while keeping his teams focused on what matters most.
Despite his long-established success with eight Pro Bowls and two First-Team All Pro honors, Slater continues to doggedly pursue improvement while looking to teammates new and old for ways he can get better.
"I do think that there are things that I can be taught to do," Slater said on Thursday in a Webex call with reporters. "I look at players like Justin Bethel or Cody Davis, and then having the chance to work with them now hand in hand, there are things that they do as a part of their game that I don't do as well, and I think that I can try to incorporate those things. The saying goes, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' This old dog is still trying to learn new tricks. I embrace that challenge."
Check out photos of the Patriots during training camp at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.
That old dog is a fixture at Patriots practice, often on his own, breaking down the nitty gritty details of his position and working on each individual piece throughout the sessions.
Slater admitted he can feel a bit isolated at times.
"I enjoy the process," said Slater of his private special teamer sessions. "It is a very unique situation that I'm in. Sometimes you wonder how my guys are doing over there in the receiver room.
"I'm really appreciative of our coaches being so each detail oriented and going out there with a plan and purpose not just kind of slapping it out there. I feel good about the plan we have each and every day and it brings me a lot of enjoyment."
Despite his experience and stature in the league, Slater continues playing with a chip on his shoulder that has helped motivate a long and fruitful NFL career.
"I think you should never get to a place where you feel like you have it all figured out," Slater said. "You should always be searching for more knowledge, more understanding of the game and trying to improve yourself. I think when that process stops, when you stop evolving in that way, then it's probably time for you to stop playing. And I don't think I've reached that point yet."
As for the 2020 Patriots, now with just over a week's worth of practice under their belts, Slater felt just the team was finally coming together after a virtual offseason.
"I think for us now being face-to-face, being able to spend time around one another has been very encouraging," said Slater. "For the hours we're in this building you're kind of able to put down your guard take your mind off all the things that are going on in the world and just enjoy one another's company and the gift of being able to play football."
Webex Quotes of Note
Brandon Copeland on the advantage of knowing the entire defense:
"On other teams I've been on it's not typical that your nose tackle would have a thorough understanding of what your safety was doing or your conrnerback. By us doing that and understanding that here, it allows you to play much faster on defense because you just know where everyone is around you. You know where to push the ball to, all that type of stuff."
Jake Bailey on the technique to pin his punts inside the 10:
"It all has to do with the drop of the punt and angle the nose down so you can flip the ball and make the ball have backspin. It's not a foolproof process that it will always have backspin, the ball kind of bounces forward sometimes, but it gives it the best shot to have hangtime and if not bounce backwards it will bounce straight up and Slater will be down there and usually that ends in a good play."