Matthew Slater, the Patriots' three-time Pro Bowl special-teams standout, met for 12 minutes Tuesday with the local media to chat about the start of the "official" voluntary conditioning program that started Monday, plus a few other topics. Here's the transcript of the entire session:
How is your offseason going?
“It’s been a good time to be able to relax and get the body right and it’s fun now to be back with everyone, see all the new guys here, a lot of old faces, and be back to work Starting really the 2014 season.”
How do you like the offseason moves to this point?
“There’s a lot to be excited about, some extremely talented players that we’ve added to the roster along with some extremely talented players that we’ve had here for a while. But all that’s on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together so we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Was it hard to believe when you heard Darrelle Revis might be coming here?
“I don’t really follow a whole lot of football in the offseason so I heard it and that would be great if he came, I thought. Obviously, when you get a player like that you’re excited about the opportunity to play with him. You know what he brings to the table, but look, there are 31 other teams out there that are trying to get done what they need to get done and we’ve got to try to just focus on us and trying to improve.”
Does it bother you when former Patriots rip the team after they leave?
“I try not to give those things a whole lot of thought. We live in a country with social media and things like that. People are able to speak their minds and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m just more worried about what’s going on here in-house. Anybody that I may have played with in the past I wish them nothing but the best of like, but we’ve just got to focus on what’s going on here in New England.”
Logan Mankins said that players here know what’s expected of them.
“No question. The expectations around here are high. We expect to be successful every year. We know the cost that we have to pay and we know that it’s not going to be easy, but whether it’s easy or not we’re going to do everything we can to have success year in, year out.”
How can the team improve special teams from year to year?
“I think there’s so many facets of the game that I can improve upon, we can improve upon. Scotty (O’Brien) is a very demanding coach and to be able to know what he expects from us and know how we need to get better is very helpful and to have that continuing, I don’t want to say I think the same as Scotty, (but) I have a pretty good understanding of him and so do the other guys in there. It goes a long way when it comes to ‘crunch time’ during the season.”
Any areas in particular?
“I think we can improve on all the big four units. We left a lot of plays out there last year. Even though we had a successful, I think there’s a lot of areas that we can improve upon. I know there are a lot of areas I can improve upon and I’m sure a lot of guys feel that way. So we’re just looking to get better.”
As a captain, what does that role translate to for offseason workouts?
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to lead by example. Coming in here and putting in a good day’s work oftentimes says more than any words that can come out of your mouth. So my approach is just to take each day as its own and try to improve myself physically, mentally so that I can be a better football player and a better teammate for this team.”
How much time did you take off in the offseason?
“You like to take a few weeks off. You play such a long season your body’s really beat up. You like to take a few weeks off and let your body heal itself up and then you slowly get back into maybe rehab and running and lifting. I think those first few weeks when you first start back you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Man, I’m out of shape.’ But that’s all part of it. So it’s really a year-round gig where we really have to keep ourselves in tip-top shape year-round. You have to pick and choose your spots to take time off and rest your body, but other than that you’ve got to be on at all times.”
Do you think about when you were drafted?
“I sure do. I think about it all the time. I was in a position where I didn’t know what was going to happen, didn’t know where I was going to end up, didn’t know if I was going to get drafted. But thinking back on it, it really was a joy to be able to see that childhood dream come to fruition and be able to live that out and I’m still very thankful that this team took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to live out my childhood dream.”
Did you know whether you’d play offense or defense?
“I was. I didn’t know if I was going to be playing safety, receiver. I obviously knew I was going to be playing in the kicking game, but other than that, I was just kind of an open book and ready to go wherever they asked me to go.”
Looking forward to facing Revis in practice?
“I’m sure that’ll be fun. As competitors, no matter what it is that you’re doing I feel like all of us want to go against the best and we feel like he’s definitely one of the best. He’s proven that. And I think it’s just going to make everyone better going against a guy like that, as well as the other guys that we’ve added. So there will be a lot of competition, as there is every year. And I think that breeds success.”
Did you have contact with O’Brien before you were drafted?
No. If you recall, Brad Seely was here my rookie year and Scott was in Denver. I didn’t meet Scott until he came here my second year. And as I’ve said several times and I’ll say it again, I owe a lot of my success to Scott O’Brien and what he’s been able to do for me as a player.
How much does the Patriots’ emphasis on special teams play into the draft process?
I really felt like this is ultimately the perfect fit, because Coach Belichick understands that you have to have solid effort in all three phases to have a good football team. It’s something that he values and they value here. And fortunately for me, I’ve been able to have a little bit of success doing it.
What has O’Brien made you appreciate about special teams?
I definitely think that the cerebral part of the game, and really thinking about what you’re doing, having a plan of attack, understanding how you’re being attacked or blocked, understanding what you’re trying to do return-wise. He’s really opened my mind to just being more than a fast guy that’s running down there throwing my body around. It’s a thinking man’s game, believe it or not. And he’s really helped me in that area. And there are also things physically that he’s challenged me to do better. Like I said, I’m really thankful to play for a coach like that.
Do you know any of the new guys?
I’ve gotten a few chances to visit with Revis, and obviously, competing against him over the years. I got a chance to meet him and send some time with him in Hawaii this year and he’s really a good guy. He does everything the right way, plays the game the right way, and you respect that about a guy, no matter who he played for. If he plays the game hard and the right way, you respect it. And he’s definitely one of those guys.
What was the highlight of your trip to the Pro Bowl?
Just being able to spend time with the greatest players in the world. You know, I’m a fan of this game and I always have been, always will be. That was a joy to be able to spend time with some of the best, and I’m doing it right now.
We’re getting back to football here … what will you guys do to replace LeGarrette Blount?
That decision is certainly up to Scotty and Joe Judge and obviously Coach Belichick. Like they always tell me, players play and coaches coach. So, that’s not up to me; there are a lot of guys that are more than capable of getting the job done and we’ll just see how it unfolds.
Was football a full-time job for your dad as it is now for you?
I think toward the end of my dad’s career, he really understood how to prepare. He really understood how to get his body right. I haven’t been around a lot of people professionally that worked as hard as he did, and I think that’s what enabled him to have longevity and have the success that he had. But obviously, early on in his career, he was a substitute teacher the first three years, and it was a different NFL. Toward the latter part of his career, he really paid the game the respect that it was due as far as preparing his body, and really being ready to go the whole year round.
What does this portion of the schedule mean as far as team-building?
This is huge. You can’t expect to just show up in September and have a good football team. It really starts now and it starts with physically preparing your body, building chemistry, going back to the basics. There’s a lot of work that goes into us showing up in September and playing a game. So we’re a long way away right now, we know that and hopefully we can get ourselves in better position day by day.
Do you do any film work on your own?
I do. I like to self-scout, I like to talk to other players around the league. I like to watch other players around the league. I think that you can learn a lot by watching other guys. That’s something that I’ve learned to do more and more as my career has gone along.
What have you seen from the second-year guys in the receiving room?
Those guys were asked to do a lot last year. They had a big load on their plate, and they were great teammates and they did everything they were asked to do. They worked hard and hopefully they can improve upon that this year. Like I said, there’s a lot of work left to be done, and they’re definitely up for the challenge, as well as all the guys in that locker room. We just have to focus on day by day, getting better, and I’m sure they’ll that, and hopefully everyone around here will do that.