FOXBORO, Mass. — Tuesday was one of those days when it didn’t seem so bad to reside in New England. It was 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky when Matthew Slater stepped onto the Gillette Stadium game field to meet with the media for the first time since the Patriots won Super Bowl LI.
Perhaps his sentiment would have been different if it was drizzling and 45 degrees as it’s been for the rest of the spring in Foxboro, but Slater more than hinted that he wants to spend his entire career with the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
“I realize how blessed I’ve been to be here for the entirety of my career, and I realize how rare that is, especially for a guy at my position,” the special teamer said. “That’s something I don’t take for granted, and it’s something I’m very proud of. It was one of my, I guess, goals to spend as long as I could with one franchise, possibly play my entire career there. I’m thankful for the situation I’ve been in the last decade. I owe a lot of thanks to Mr. (Robert) Kraft and his family and Coach (Bill) Belichick and his staff, and my teammates. Hopefully I can keep carrying my weight around here.”
Slater’s Hall of Fame father, Jackie, played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Rams as an offensive tackle. Matthew, now entering his 10th season, said his goal of playing his entire career with the Patriots is “absolutely” influenced by his father.
“I remember he had a chance at the end of his career, when free agency started in ’93, to leave,” Slater said. “He stuck it out and stayed with the Rams. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to be like the old man.”
With the 2017 NFL Draft coming up, Slater, now with a son of his own and another baby on the way, took a trip down memory lane to recall his expectations upon being picked by the Patriots.
“I dreamed and hoped and prayed that I would have an opportunity to do this,” Slater said. “I came here hoping they wouldn’t cut me before I got my signing bonus. That was my goal. I was just hoping to stick around on the practice squad, just hoping to find a way. I’ve been really blessed to have the experiences I’ve had here, build the relationships I’ve had and be a part of a successful organization. I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of: The number of games I’ve been a part of in a winning effort.”
Slater now is a two-time Super Bowl champion (something he pointed out his father never accomplished), a six-time Pro Bowl selection and a four-time All-Pro. It doesn’t sound like he’s ready to hang up his cleats soon, either.
“I guess I’m getting to that point in my career when I will think about those things,” Slater said. “As long as my body’s able and Coach Belichick will have me around here, I’m up for the challenge. I still love the game of football. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I think I have more fun doing it now than I did when I was a rookie. I’m thankful for the opportunity I have here, and I’m just going to enjoy every day I have.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images