Perry: Why Slater Continue Career Special is a gift to the Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Patriots will have a key addition to their facilities for 2023.
Through the team, Matthew Slater announced he would return for his 16th NFL season in 2023. He is not under contract, so he and the Patriots will agree on a deal that will keep the 37-year-old in Foxboro for another year. .
“It is a great honor and blessing to return to the Patriots for my 16th season,” Slater said in a statement. “I thank God for his continued grace and disposition throughout my career. I look forward to continuing to play under Coach (Bill) Belichick. Thanks to the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization for allowing me to continue to pursue my childhood dream. See you in the fall. God bless you.”
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Slater had been very open that 2022 could be his last season. He was emotional on the podium following New England’s season-ending loss to the Bills last month, realizing he may be off the field for the last time as a player.
Subsequently, Slater said in an interview on Tim Hatch Live’s podcast that calling to retire or not was “one of the toughest decisions of my life.”
The Patriots are clearly happy with the pick they settled on.
“I couldn’t be happier to learn that Matthew Slater has decided to return for his 16th season with the New England Patriots,” said Patriots president and CEO Robert Kraft. “Matthew’s drive to be the best at what he does will one day earn him an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet as stellar as his football career has been, he’s an even better person. He’s driven by his faith and spirituality, dedicated to his family and committed to his craft.
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“There is no better leader for our youngest players to follow and no better ambassador for the Patriots organization. He is truly special and I am grateful that his contributions to the team continue.”
Slater is still regarded by league evaluators as a special team elite, as his 12 special teams tackles last year would suggest. That, plus the example he sets and the leadership he provides, makes him an invaluable presence in the Patriots locker room.
“I think it’s really about the younger generation of players taking ownership,” Slater told Hatch. “My generation had to take ownership of (Tedy) Bruschi, (Mike) Vrabel, (Matt) Lights.
“I think this next generation needs to really take ownership of the team and say, ‘Hey, this team is only going to be good if we create it, how we invest in it, how we manage it and maximize our opportunity.’ I think we have the young people to do it.”
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Slater’s decision to return means the younger generation will get another year of guardianship over what it means to take ownership of the team.
Whether Slater’s good friend and longtime safety Devin McCourty will return for 2023 remains to be seen. But Slater’s return ensures that the Patriots will avoid the possibility of two of their most respected leaders retiring in the same offseason.
“Matt’s incredible career is a testament to his preparation and will to succeed,” Belichick said. “We are thrilled that he will play this season.”
Well before free agency and the draft began, it’s already been a productive offseason for the Patriots. They announced top defensive assistant Jerod Mayo would be sticking around after he got head coaching interest elsewhere. Then Bill O’Brien agreed to return as offensive coordinator. Now Slater has decided to return.
“Excited,” as Belichick put it, seems appropriate.