Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater checked in with Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday to chat about the Patriots’ overtime loss to the Broncos and the injury to Rob Gronkowski. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.
Slater said he did not get much sleep after the Sunday night loss.
“It’s tough when you lose like a game like that and you feel like you played well enough to win,” he lamented. “But that’s that way it goes sometimes.”
Slater said the message from Bill Belichick after the game was a positive one.
“We went out there and we knew it was going to be a tough game for us, but we competed well,” Slater said of Belichick’s message. “We’ve got to be proud of the fact that we went out there and competed well. And also we have to to understand our football team, all our goals that we want to accomplish on the season are still out there for us. So, no time to feel sorry for ourselves. [We’ve] got to bounce back and have a good week against Philly.”
Gronkowski was injured in the fourth quarter of the game, and based on his reaction there were fears that it was a serious injury. However, reports since then indicate he might not miss much action.
“I think he seemed tired just like the rest of us,” Slater said with a laugh of how Gronkowski appeared on the plane ride home. “I can’t speak to what’s going on with him. I haven’t had a chance to visit with him, I don’t really know what’s going on. I guess we’re all waiting to see what happens.”
Just before his injury, Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference, a call the Patriots protested.
“I always feel like Gronk is a tough guy to officiate,” Slater said diplomatically. “You think about Shaquille O’Neal back in his days in the post, and guys were banging on him, but it always looked like he was banging on them because he was so big. It’s tough. Gronk’s a tough player to officiate sometimes because of the way people play him and the way he plays.
“I can’t really say what he could or couldn’t have done different [to avoid the penalty]. It’s just a tough call in that situation. But take your hats off to the Broncos, they made enough plays at the end of the day to win the game.”
There is speculation that opposing teams are alerting the officials leading up to games to watch for Gronkowski pushing off.
“I know that if I’m a coach on the other team I’m doing whatever I can to slow this guy down,” Slater said. “He poses a lot of problems out there for the opponents. But who knows if he’s a marked man or not? I can’t say that.”
Patriots special teams have been stellar this season, but on Sunday rookie Chris Harper fumbled away a ball on a punt return in the fourth quarter, and that changed the momentum of the game. Slater said Harper’s mistake is not uncommon for younger players.
“He’s got to keep his head up,” Slater said. “Those type of things happen to the best of players. We’re going to come back to him. His number will get called again. He just has to continue to work hard and prepare himself for his next opportunity.
“I remember when I was a rookie I had some ball security issues back there as a returner myself. So it’s happens to everyone [if] you field enough punts or kickoffs. So we’ve just got to keep him positive.”
Former Patriot Aqib Talib reintroduced himself to Slater on a Broncos punt return, driving Slater out of bounds and throwing him to the ground, earning a 15-yard penalty in the process. Slater also said Talib trash-talks “maybe a little bit more” than he did when he played in New England. However, that doesn’t change the positive opinion Slater has of the cornerback.
“Aqib, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him,” Slater said. “We had a good relationship when he was here. I think he’s a great player. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
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