FOXBORO, Mass. — Matthew Slater’s inspirational locker-room speeches don’t only come after victories.
On Saturday, the longtime New England Patriots co-captain put his team’s season-ending 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in perspective for his crestfallen teammates.
“Slate said it the best after the game: This doesn?t define us,” fellow captain Devin McCourty relayed during his postgame news conference. “We?ve had a good group. We?ve had some very good runs — great runs — and we?ve just got to hold our heads up and get ready for whatever the future holds.”
Slater expanded on that message when speaking with reporters after the wild-card round playoff loss — the first defeat New England had suffered before the AFC Championship Game since 2010.
“You know, there are two ways to approach that,” the standout special teamer said. “I am of the belief that you can spend your entire life trying to seek the approval of man, and no matter what you do, it is never going to be good enough. No matter what you accomplish, there is always going to be someone there who is doubting you, questioning you or saying you are not good enough.
“So if you spend your life seeking the approval of man, it is going to be a long tough life for you, but if you spend your life standing on your own two feet, believing in things that you believe in, not worrying about things that you can?t control and not seeking the approval of man, but hoping to serve your family, the ones you love, investing in relationships, love those that love you and even love those that don?t love you, then you?ll be a lot better off.
“I encourage all of these guys to ignore that because we don?t need the approval of anyone else outside of this room. I think that we have already proven ourselves as men, and ultimately, that is all that is going to matter. It is great to go out and compete on the football field and give it everything that we have, but I do believe that the things that we stand for in light of eternity are much bigger than the game of football.”
Slater and McCourty both have spent their entire NFL careers in New England, as has quarterback Tom Brady. All three are among the 20 Patriots players set to hit free agency in March.
“I think, as you have a core group of guys that are now 30-plus, that always has question marks,” McCourty said. “Are we going to be as good? Are we going to retire? All of those questions continuously come up, and I think it?s important to just take some time away, be with our families and figure out the situation going forward, just like I know all the Patriots will do the same thing. It?s been fun. We?ve got a good group of guys.”