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Patriots captain Matthew Slater announces retirement after 16 seasons, 3 Super Bowl titles

By The Associated Press - | Feb 21, 2024

FILE - New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) addresses the media after being defeated by the New York Jets in an NFL football game on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass. Slater announced his retirement on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in a letter posted on the team’s website and social media accounts, saying he had “given all that I possibly can to respect and honor the game.” (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper, File)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — For more than a decade, Matthew Slater was universally celebrated as being the emotional centerpiece of the New England Patriots’ locker room, building a resume as one of the league’s most-decorated special teams players.

After 16 NFL seasons, he says it’s time to call it a career.

Slater announced his retirement on Tuesday in a letter posted on the team’s website and social media accounts, saying he had “given all that I possibly can to respect and honor the game.”

“Though it is time for my relationship with the game to evolve, the love I have for it will last a lifetime,” Slater wrote in the letter. “I came here as a young man with hopes and dreams. In 2024, I can retire knowing this experience has exceeded any hope or dream I ever had.”

A fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA by New England in 2008 and son of Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, he was unapologetically open about his Christian faith while growing into the embodiment of Bill Belichick’s “Patriot Way,” team-first culture.

Along the way Slater was voted as the special teams captain 13 times while winning three Super Bowl rings, earning 10 Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro honors.

From 2018 to 2022 he didn’t miss a game. His total of 264 games with the Patriots are second in team history behind only Tom Brady’s 326.

“What he brings to the team off the field — leadership, work ethic, guidance, motivation … is very unique and extraordinary, the very top,” Belichick said in December when asked about Slater’s impact on the Patriots.

Team owner Robert Kraft said he expects Slater’s career to one day earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside his father.

“Matthew Slater wasn’t just a special teams player for the Patriots. He was a special team player who helped us win three Super Bowls and made a positive impact on the many lives he touched, both on and off the field.” Kraft said in a statement.

Following the announcement, well wishes poured in across social media from Slater’s Patriots teammates, including Brady, who called him “one of a kind.”

Though “Slate” often referred to Bible verses to describe different situations the Patriots confronted, he was a fierce competitor and served as the team’s unofficial spokesman.

Slater said his approach to the sport developed when he was a kid, visiting his grandparents in Meridian, Mississippi, and observing his father’s work ethic as he prepared for the Los Angeles Rams’ training camp.

Under the smoldering Mississippi sun, he recalled tagging along with his dad to the local high school field. There he’d sit in the shade “asking for snow cones” while Jackie went through drills.

“I remember those days more clearly than I remember his games,” Slater wrote. “They weren’t glamorous. There was no crowd around to cheer him on. There were no lights flashing. There were no critics critiquing. Just a man, my hero, dedicating himself to the game he loved so much.”

Slater called the experience “transformative.”

“I soon began to develop those same feelings for the game that had been so good to our family,” Slater wrote.

Though New England’s 4-13 finish this past season proved to be the worst of Slater’s career, it didn’t stop his teammates from celebrating him.

Prior to their season finale last month, Patriots players surprised Slater by wearing pregame sweatshirts with Slater’s name and number.

After the game, a visibly emotional Slater called it one of the most special moments of his career.

“It meant a lot,” Slater said. “I was blown away by it.”


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