New England Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater spoke highly of former assistant Joe Judge earlier this week and the New York Giants head coach now has returned the favor.
And it’s not just an on-field admiration, either. It goes well beyond the field and, if it were up to Judge, even into the operating room.
“In terms of my relationship with Matt, I have a lot of relationships with a lot of players on this team that I’ve coached,” Judge said Thursday before the Patriots and Giants faced off in their second and final joint-practice session. “Obviously, my loyalty right now is with the Giants, but I would say if Matt needed a kidney tomorrow he’d have it tonight.”
Judge, entering his second campaign at the helm of the Giants, is well-versed with Slater and the Patriots special teams unit. Judge spent eight combined seasons as New England’s special teams assistant and then special teams coordinator. He arrived four seasons into Slater’s tenure with the Patriots and the two clearly enjoyed working together thereafter.
Slater expressed Wednesday how much Judge did for him and his career, which now includes nine Pro Bowl selections.
“I think Joe gave me a lot of belief in myself. I think early in my career I didn’t have a ton of belief in myself as a player. I struggled. I think Scott O’Brien and Joe Judge both did a great job of instilling belief in me,” Slater said Wednesday, as transcribed by MassLive. “Challenging me in ways that I didn’t like at times but it made me better. And just coaching me hard. No matter what I did, no matter how well I played, how poorly I played. They always challenged me. And Joe was always very adamant about me continuing to work to improve, no matter where I was at in my career. I think embracing that mentality has really paid dividends.”
Judge explained how the benefit went both ways.
“He made me a better coach every day,” Judge said. “When you have a player of that caliber, you’ve got to know that you’ve got to come into the building every day you’ve got to be ready to make them a better player. With someone so accomplished as Matt is and works as hard as he does that you’ve got to bring it every day. You can’t have an off day. You walk in slopping around and think you’re just going to give them some plate of whatever, they’re going to look at you and you’re done. That’s just the reality of what it is.”
Slater’s Patriots and Judge’s Giants now will get set to take the field for New England’s preseason finale in New York on Sunday, but it is undeniable their bond will go far beyond that.