The 2020 season has been a tough one for NFL players across the league, and perhaps even tougher for members of the New England Patriots. One legend says he is contemplating retirement.
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Matthew Slater is Unsure if He Will Be Back in 2020
The Patriots’ special teams unit could be without a major contributor in 2021. Nine-time Pro-Bowler and 3-time Super Bowl champion Matthew Slater told the media on Wednesday that he doesn’t know if he’ll return for what would be his 14th season in the NFL–all with the Patriots.
Slater indicated to reporters that the 2020 season has in many ways been the most challenging of his career. While he didn’t give a ton of specifics, the impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty ahead as it pertains to that situation next year would seemingly be a factor.
He also added he could not imagine ever playing for another team, so if he isn’t a member of the Patriots’ roster, he would not play.
Is Slater a Hall-of-Famer?
One question to ponder, and Slater discussed this subject earlier in the year, is Slater a Hall-of-Famer. Quite honestly, had he not been primarily a special-teamer his entire career we wouldn’t even have a debate.
Only 39 men who have ever played the game have been elected to more Pro-Bowls than Slater. He’s won more Super Bowls than Walter Payton, and many other guys who are already enshrined in Canton, Ohio. It seems like a no-brainer, but the path for a special-teamer is unpaved. As a matter of fact, there are only five special-teamers in the Hall of Fame: 4 of them are kickers (George Blanda, Morten Andersen, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud and there is one punter, Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders great Ray Guy.
Many are waiting to see if all-world return man Devin Hester will make it in, but he isn’t eligible until 2022. He is the greatest return man in the history of the game. If he isn’t deemed Hall-worthy, no return man should be enshrined. For Slater, his trailblazer would be Buffalo Bills great Steve Tasker. For years, Tasker made 7 Pro-Bowl squads and never won a Super Bowl with nearly an identical role to Slater. If Tasker ever gets in, it would seemingly suggest Slater’s enshrinement is a lock. Unfortunately, Tasker has been Hall eligible for 18 years without a nod.
It has to be a bit discouraging. In any case, Slater has the respect of his teammates (who elected him one of the captains) and his head coach Bill Belichick who called him the best special-teamer he’s ever been around.
Bill Belichick lauded Matthew Slater for earning his 9th Pro Bowl nod, saying "he's certainly the very best I've been around."
— Karen Guregian (@kguregian) December 22, 2020
At the end of the day, Slater may ultimately have to settle for a place in the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Other Potential Patriots Retirements
Keep an eye out for guys who opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns about COVID-19. Dont’a Hightower and Marcus Cannon’s cases are especially interesting. Both players are the most missed of all the opt-outs, and it’s a possibility both men choose to call it a career.
- Writer Makes Crude Cam Newton COVID-19 Joke on WEEI
- Bill Belichick Hints at Sweeping Changes for the Patriots in 2021
- Patriots Opt-Out Veteran States His Intentions for 2021
- Bill Belichick Appears to Make His QB Decision for Final Game
- Cam Newton’s Insane Sleep Schedule Blamed for Ineffectiveness