The New England Patriots nearly lost another franchise pillar to a voluntary opt-out.
Longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater considered becoming the seventh Patriots player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season before ultimately deciding to play, NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported Thursday on “Good Morning Football.”
“I was told (Wednesday) that Slater was leaning toward opting out,” Garafolo said. “(NFL Media’s Ian) Rapoport eventually tracked down Slater, who said, ‘No, it was a tough decision, but I will be playing.’ So there you go, Patriots fans.”
Garafolo added that additional Patriots players might have followed suit had Slater chose to sit out due to COVID-19 concerns.
“He being a team captain, I gather that some other guys were looking toward Slater to see what he was going to do,” Garafolo said. “So it’s possible this list would have grown even more if Slater had opted out.”
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 30, 2020
Following Tom Brady’s departure in free agency and Stephen Gostkowski’s release, Slater is the Patriots’ longest-tenured player. He’s also one of the greatest special teams players in NFL history and is coming off a season in which he made the Pro Bowl (his eighth) and the All-Pro first team (his fifth).
Slater, a three-time Super Bowl winner, signed a two-year contract extension this spring that runs through the 2021 season. He turns 35 a week before New England’s 2020 season opener.
The Patriots already lost one kicking game standout when running back Brandon Bolden opted out of the season on Tuesday. A total of six New England players have done so thus far: Bolden, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran.