The New England Patriots are happy to have Matthew Slater returning for his 16th season in the NFL.
The special teams phenom announced that he would be returning to the field in 2023 after mulling retirement. Slater spoke with Patriots.com and discussed the choice to continue playing.
“I do believe that my role at this point is not just about covering kicks, blocking for returners,” Slater said. “I think it’s about fostering culture, building relationships and pouring into young men. You can do that in other capacities, but the way you do that as a player is very different. The way you’re able to connect with guys is very different.
“That’s something I still have a lot of passion for, and that’s something I certainly wasn’t ready to walk away from,” Slater added. “That factored in huge into the decision, because I feel like there are certain things you can do as a player that you can’t do as an administrator or as a staff member — things I felt like were unfinished in terms of relationships and culture. So that definitely factored in.”
At 38 years old, Slater has a wealth of knowledge and experience. The captain is a key part of the locker room and creating a winning atmosphere in the Patriots locker room.
Matthew Slater Wanted to end his Patriots Career on a High Note
If Slater was to retire, his last game would have been marred by a poor performance from the special teams unit in Week 18 against the Buffalo Bills.
“I did take it hard,” Slater said about the performance. “Certainly you don’t want to go out like that, but I think I have to be willing and ready to understand that you don’t get to control how this ends. That’s just the nature of the beast. I’ve talked to my dad (Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater) a lot about that. He didn’t necessarily end the way he wanted to end. A lot of guys … you don’t get to choose how it ends.
“As much as I didn’t want that to be the last chapter to my story, I had to accept that it possibly was going to be,” Slater added. “That would have been a hard pill to swallow, so I’m glad that it’s not, and I’m hopeful that I can end things on my own terms. That’s certainly my prayer, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Fellow Patriots Captain Devin McCourty Hasn’t Made a Decision
While Slater will be coming back, Patriots fans don’t know if Devin McCourty will be returning to the team. The captain appeared on “The Patriots Report” podcast and discussed his process on making a decision.
“I’ve gone back and forth,” he said. “I think the good thing is I actually have a vacation coming up with the family, and then I’m going to go hang out with [Jason McCourty] for a week. I think just being able to get away from football, especially as you kind of get older, I think it helps you put things in perspective, doing other things.
“My wife always jokes with me because this is probably the first year that I’ve actually thought about it,” he added. “Usually, I say that. I would say over the last two or three years, ‘I’m thinking about it,’ but as soon as the offseason hits, I’ve gone right back into working out and doing what I’ve always done to get ready for the season. [Playing football,] it’s something I’ve been doing since I was 10 years old, so the thought of not getting ready to go, the thought of not playing in the game, even though you think about it, I don’t think it ever becomes real until you do it.”