Photo courtesy of WCVB TV, Boston
PATRIOTS WIDE RECEIVER MATTHEW SLATER
July 25, 2018
Q: How’s it feel to be back?
MS: It’s exciting. It’s always exciting to start a new year with a clean slate, with a new group of guys. I say it every year – it’s like the first day of school, so we’re excited to be back, excited to go back to work.
Q: I know you visited two other teams as a free agent, did you think you’d be here on this day?
MS: I had belief in the Lord’s plan that I was going to be where He wanted me, and this is where He wanted me so thankful to be here.
Q: You guys are obviously at different points in your careers, some here for the first time, some like [Tom] Brady in his 19th year, 41 years old. Knowing your background with Tom, when you walk in here today, see him grinding away like he’s 30, 25, what comes to your mind?
MS: I certainly think you have to take the time to pause and be appreciative of an athlete like that. What he’s been able to accomplish is special and to be able to witness it up close and personal is really a blessing. I’m thankful to have learned from him as a professional, to see the way he goes about his craft, to see his desire to prepare himself so he can be successful. It’s really something to watch. I’m thankful to be witnessing greatness.
Q: How much time have you put into the new kickoff rules?
MS: Well, certainly it’s something that we’ve covered over the course of the spring, kind of familiarizing ourselves with the changes and the way the play is going to be executed. I think during training camp and the preseason we’ll really get a feel for how it’s going to play itself out. I’ve said it before, I’m thankful that they were willing to save the play and make changes as opposed to just abolishing the play. Hopefully the changes yield the results that we’re looking for from a player safety standpoint and, hopefully, they still provide the excitement that the kickoff has always provided.
Q: Do you know all the rules yet? Because Terry McAulay, former ref who’s now with NBC I think, he said one of the things people aren’t talking about is the kickoff is really going to be messed up and there’s all these little things they’re tinkering with — do you know what the final set of rules look like?
MS: Yeah, I would say for the most part. I feel pretty comfortable — now there are a few nuances that I’m sure over the course of training camp we’ll have to get ironed out with the refs as they figure out how they’re going to officiate the play. But I think Joe [Judge] has done a good job of going over the rules with us from the back on up. From how the wedge play is going to look, how front line play is going to look and flip it over on coverage, what our alignment is going to look like, what we can’t do as far as chipping guys as we run down the field, things of that nature. I feel like we got a decent grasp on it but training camp will allow us to fully digest it.
Q: Have you gotten a feel for whether or not that will favor one side more than the other?
MS: It’s really tough to say. Until we really get into live situations, game-type situations, it’s going to be tough to say one way or another. You know, special teams is one of the hardest things to simulate in practice because the speed is just, you know, so hard to reproduce. I think once we get into preseason, all of us will have a better feel for that.
Q: One of the things that Cordarrelle Patterson said when he talked to us in the spring is, he said, “Doesn’t matter what it looks like. I can run through pretty much anything.” What are your impressions of him, as a kick returner, what he can do for you guys?
MS: Well, I’ve been watching him since he came in the league and I think we’ve talked at length about what he has from a physical standpoint that has enabled him to have success in this league. His size, his speed, you know he runs through a lot of arm tackles. I can attest to that, personally. When you got a guy that big and explosive and he’s got the right mindset, he wants to be aggressive, it’s definitely a good thing. It’s not just up to him though, it’s up to us, the guys blocking for him, to make sure that we give him the opportunity to utilize his skill set.
Q: Have you had a full team meeting with players and coaches yet?
Q: What is the opening statement or theme for the season?
MS: Oh, I can’t get into that. Family business. I respect the question though.
Q: Matthew, you mentioned that this is like the first day of school. You’ve been around for a while now and in the league for a while, how has this day changed for you, reporting back to camp, not only from a physical standpoint but mentally?
MS: I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is perspective. As a player, oftentimes you don’t really take the time to pause and realize how blessed you are to be living out many of our childhood dreams. I think as a young player, you’re so caught up in trying to do everything you can to stick around and make the team and you don’t really take pause to take time and do that. Now, granted I’m still caught up in those things, but I’ve tried to take time and step back and maintain perspective and realize that hey, I play a game for a living. I’m not out fighting fires, I’m not out on the battlefield, I’m playing football and we really are blessed. I think that’s become more a part of preparation, is keeping things in balance and maintaining perspective. I think the hunger to be successful, to grind, to work hard is always going to be there for me. That’s just the way I was raised. But I think that’s been the biggest change for me personally.
Q: Do you try to pass that perspective on to some of the rookies and undrafted guys?
MS: If I can, absolutely. You know, this is a game and I think it was meant to be fun and I hope those guys enjoy it. It’s a tough grind and we all know the business side of things. We start with 90 and we go to 53 but I hope that those guys can appreciate what they’ve accomplished with getting into a training camp, not being complacent and satisfied, but being thankful for the opportunity.
Q: Matthew, obviously the national anthem is media-wise, still a big story, involved in talks with the league in trying to hash out –
MS: Well, I can’t really get into what I’ve been involved in and what I haven’t. I’ll say this, we all know how that issue has affected our league, our country. As a Christian, I believe it’s my responsibility to show people the love of Christ and how I deal with Him in my relationships, to invest in our youth, to invest in people and the human side of things, and that’s the way I want to handle that. I can only speak for how I’m going to handle it. I’m always going to be viewing things from a Christ-centered lens and that’s how I’m going to be moving forward.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the NFL was re-thinking the anthem policy?
MS: Didn’t really have one.
Q: Weren’t you involved in some of the talks in the offseason?
MS: Can’t comment on that.
Q: Kind of following up on the Tom [Brady] question earlier, this is your 11th year—do you ever go back and look at the draft list of the guys you got drafted with, that class you came in with? A lot of them never made it, stuck around for a bit, retired early—just kind of your thoughts on being a survivor?
MS: Yeah. You know, I’ve been blessed. Most of the credit goes to the Lord. He’s preserved me, He’s shown me favor here in being with this great organization. You know, Chad O’Shea brings that list out often, maybe this time of year every year, with Julian [Edelman] and I. There are a lot of great players on that list, talented guys. But the NFL is a funny game the way things work out with guys’ careers, injuries, things of that nature. As I said earlier, I really feel like I owe my success to a lot of people and obviously, you know how I feel, what I believe, the Lord has taken care of me, but people around me have enabled me to get to this point and I’m very thankful.
Q: Matt, this is your 11th year and you still manage to have an excitement for the game. How do you manage to stay measured and bring that excitement every game?
MS: Man, I just love this game. I’ve been around this game my entire life. The person in the world I look up to the most and has been the biggest influence on my life absolutely loves the game of football and that’s my father. So, I don’t know if it’s just a father-son thing or what it is but I appreciate not only this game, the competition, the teamwork, the camaraderie, but just the lessons that come along with it, the relationships that you have, the accountability that you have to your teammates. There’s really nothing like it in my opinion. So, I mean if you can’t get excited about doing this, then perhaps it’s time for me to look elsewhere. But I’m far from that point so I’m loving it.
Q: Your father had a long career. Did he give you any advice about having a long career? What to do to have a long career?
MS: There’s certainly been a lot of things we’ve talked about, especially on the back nine now. There’s a lot of things he did to give himself a chance to be successful late in his career. I won’t get into detail on that but again, he’s been a tremendous resource for me. Thanks guys.
Transcripts are provided by the Patriots media relations department.