FOXBORO, Mass. –The halls, weight rooms and practice facilities at Gillette Stadium have been filled with New England Patriots players this week, some of whom are meeting their new teammates for the first time.
The Patriots, who have added nine new players since the conclusion of the 2017 NFL season, officially began preparations for the 2018 campaign Monday with the commencement of their offseason program. Phase 1 of the program consists of weightlifting, conditioning and, for the newcomers, an introduction to New England’s unique culture.
“There are a lot of questions, and I think questions are good,” longtime Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said Tuesday. “You don’t want to come into a situation blind, if possible. You want to have a sense of what’s expected of you, what your teammates expect of you, and I think questions are good. Keep asking questions, keep learning, because we’re all trying to get on the same page, whether you’ve been here 11 years or you’ve been in the building for two days. We’re all trying to get on the same page.”
Head coach Bill Belichick’s all-business, no-nonsense approach has helped New England become the NFL’s most successful franchise over the past two decades. It also can make life difficult for players, with former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola and tackle Nate Solder both sharing this month that playing under Belichick was not always an enjoyable experience.
Slater’s take? Sure, it’s not easy, but the winning makes it worthwhile. The results of “The Patriot Way” speak for themselves.
“Well, certainly, it is challenging,” Slater said. “It’s the National Football League, though. I think if it was easy then a lot more people would be able to do it. It’s tough, it’s very difficult and I don’t think that?s just unique here. I think every place is tough. This is a very competitive league with some of the best athletes in the world.
“There’s a premium put on winning wherever you are. Everyone wants to win and have success, and everybody’s going to be judged off of whether or not they’re winning. That?s what it comes down to. I don?t think that this place is unique in that regard. I think every team in this league is on a quest to win and have success, and that quest is not an easy one.”
Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski — the Patriots’ two highest-profile players — both have chosen to sit out the start of the offseason program, which is voluntary until minicamp begins in June. It remains to be seen whether either plans to take part in organized team activities, which kick off May 21.
“Those are two men that are more than capable of speaking for themselves, so I certainly don’t want to be out of line in attempting to speak for them,” said Slater, New England’s third-longest-tenured player behind Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “This is a voluntary program. Every year, different guys have things that come up. Whether it’s family issues, personal issues, things come up. The guys that are here, we’re going to do what we can to work hard and come together and take this thing one day at a time, and that’s really all I can say about that.”
New to the Patriots this spring are wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, cornerback Jason McCourty, offensive linemen Matt Tobin and Luke Bowanko, running back Jeremy Hill and tight end Troy Niklas. Another batch of fresh faces will arrive after the 2018 NFL Draft takes place next week.
“I don?t think it gets talked about enough,” Slater said, “but when you?re out on the football field, doing what we?re asked to do each and every day, it takes a lot of trust. It takes a lot of familiarity with the man next to you. So the guys that are here, we?re going to make sure that we invest the time in getting to know one another.”