Matthew Slater still remembers the first game of his career. It was 2008 and the unheralded fifth-round pick made his debut for a Patriots team with expectations through the roof. But late in the first quarter Tom Brady was injured and lost for the season, putting an unfortunate damper on Slater's first game.
"I think for me it was very surreal to think that I was getting a chance to live out my childhood dream and play in the National Football League, something that I dreamed of for a very long time," said Slater after practice on his 35th birthday via WebEx. "You don't really think that dream's gonna come true, you don't know how it's gonna play out.
"I think the thing that I remember most about that day is Thomas getting hurt. Not the best way to start out my career but again I was really grateful."
The dream did come true for Slater and now, 12 years later he's one of the foundational leaders of this Patriots team and one who will be charged with leading a new generation of players into the first game of their career.
"I had an abundance of gratitude as I took the field that day I was also very very nervous unfortunately," said Slater with a grin. Veteran teammate Jason McCourty also acknowledged that nerves are a big factor in the first game of the season.
"There are some things we are going to have to figure out because we haven't had a test run," said McCourty, "I think for the rookies, stick to what you've been doing, stick to fundamentals
"I think that first game those nerves and those butterflies go in and add it with the fact that hey we haven't even played a preseason game."
The young players will be in good hands with leaders like the McCourty's and Slater, who wanted to make sure everyone realized how special this is.
"I will tell the young guys to embrace this opportunity," said Slater. "Enjoy it while you have it, you never know when the game will be over for you. Go out there flying around, play hard, don't use all your energy up on the pregame warm-ups, you got to save some of that for the game. Enjoy that moment these moments are times that will look back on when we're older and be thankful that we had."
The Patriots were again on the lower field on Wednesday as preparations for the Dolphins finally matched up with a regular week of in-season preparation. Tackle Yodny Cajuste was the only roster player not spotted, while two practice squad players -- Terez Hall and Paul Quessenberry -- were also not spotted.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
OL Yodny Cajuste - Knee
LB Cassh Maluia - Knee
WR Julian Edelman - Knee
WR Gunner Olszewski - Foot
DL Chase Winovich - Shoulder
No Players Listed.
WebEx Quotes of Note
Bill Belichick on whether in-game adjustments are important:
"It is, every week because teams always try to make adjustments, sometimes subtle adjustments, sometimes not so subtle, to try to change their attack and be less predictable and make the other team figure out what they're doing. But, in the end it usually comes back to fundamentals and things that, you know, you've been doing and you think you can do well or that's the best things that you do. So, you end up running those. In the end I think that's what we'll see most of but, I'm sure it'll be some variety in there and some, you know, gadget plays or deceptive-type plays that, you know, if you're not alert, that they could catch you by surprise."
Jason McCourty on a defensive philosophy heading into the first game:
"I think that's each and every week, you're always gonna start with the basics, the fundamentals. One, stop the run. I think beyond that once you start there you're always looking out what their personnel is, in which ways can they beat you and then you have to adapt and adjust during the course of the game."
David Andrews on the excitement of the first game:
"Gratitude is probably the first word. And then there's a lot of excitement. You miss the feeling, I don't know how you describe it, I just get chills thinking about it. You know, this game means a lot to me so to be able to go compete, [I'm] just super grateful to have the opportunity and I'm excited we get to go play football. How fortunate are we to get to go do that? So I'm pretty excited."