FOXBORO - Matthew Slater takes his captaincy of the Patriots' special teams quite seriously.
Seriously enough, in fact, that the seventh-year veteran intends to be front-and-center for every minute of the Patriots' offseason conditioning program, which began Monday.
"I think the biggest thing is just trying to lead by example," said Slater, a three-time Pro Bowl participant. "Coming in here and putting in a good day's work often times 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 and mentally so that I can be a better football player and a better teammate for this team."
Reportedly, the Patriots have full participation in the offseason workouts. For the next two weeks, they will focus solely on conditioning and weight training with only the strength coaches involved.
It's a far cry from the days when Slater's father, former Los Angeles Rams' tackle and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jackie Slater, was in the league.
"I think toward the end of my dad's career, he really understood how to prepare," Slater told a gathering of reporters Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. "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," he said. "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."
Slater, selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has become one of the NFL's best special-team players. He was coached by Brad Seely initially, and then came under the guidance of Scott O'Brien in 2009.
Slater credits O'Brien, who came to the Patriots from the Denver Broncos, as giving him the mental and physical boosts he needed to become elite at his responsibilities.
"(It's) 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," Slater said. "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," he said. "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."
Slater also expressed excitement over newcomers that have arrived in the offseason, particularly cornerback Darrelle Revis.
"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," he said. "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.
"I've gotten a few chances to visit with Revis, and obviously, competing against him over the years," he added. "I got a chance to meet him and spend 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."
Now, the process begins to mesh veterans and newcomers in an environment conducive to building a championship team.
"This is huge," Slater said. "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."