Matthew Slater has shown the ability to fight his way up the ladder in his time in New England. (AP)
FOXBORO — Matthew Slater is a natural-born optimist.
Every time the Patriots special teams captain speaks, you can hear it in his voice. So, it should come as no surprise that Slater is like all the other Patriots players who are reacting to the addition of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and the chances for the 2014 Patriots.
“I’ve gotten a few chances to visit with Revis,” Slater said Tuesday, taking a break from his workout at Gillette. “Obviously, competing against him over the years, got a chance to meet him and spend some time with him in Hawaii this year. Really a good guy, does everything the right way, plays the game the right way, and you respect that about a guy, no matter who he plays for. If he plays the game hard and plays the game the right way, you respect it and he’s definitely one of those guys.
“I don’t really follow a whole lot of football in the offseason. I heard it and that would be great if he came [to the Patriots] I thought. Obviously, when you get a player like that, you’re excited about the opportunity to play with them. You know what he brings to the table. They’re 31 other teams out there that are trying to get done what they need to get done. And we’ve got to try to focus on us and improve.”
Slater and Revis spent time together in Hawaii this past January, when Slater participated in his third straight Pro Bowl. His father, Jackie, was a seven-time Pro-Bowler. With 10 Pro Bowl nods between them, the Slaters are the second most nominated family in NFL history. (Archie, Eli, and Peyton Manning have 18).
Revis is just one of a handful of new additions that will be on hand this spring and summer when the Patriots get back on the field to begin practicing for real. In addition to Revis and Browner, there’s wide receiver Brandon LaFell and all the draft picks and rookie free agents who will be descending upon Foxboro. This week marks the true beginning for NFL teams, as players are permitted back at their club’s facilities for offseason weight lifting and training.
“There’s a lot to be excited about,” Slater said. ‘There’s 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. All that is on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together. We have a long ways to go.
“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, see the old faces and be back to work, and really start the 2014 season.”
As for the faces that have departed, like Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes, Slater said he hasn’t put too much energy into thinking about their not-so thinly veiled shots at the Patriots on their way out the door.
“I try not to give those things a whole lot of thought,” Slater said. “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 luck but we just have to focus on what’s going on here in New England.
“The expectations around here are high. We expect to be successful every year. We know the cost we have to pay and we know it’s not going to be easy. But whether it’s easy or not, we’re going to do we can to have success year in and year out.”
More than anything, Slater is proud of his work ethos as a Patriots captain.
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to lead by example,” Slater said. “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. My approach is to just 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.
“You like to take a few weeks off. You play such a long season. Your body is 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 rehab, running and lifting. And 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. It’s really a year-round gig now. 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 have to be on at all times.”
Slater said the work ethic is in the genes.
“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,” Slater said. “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 he had. Obviously, early on in his career, he was a substitute teacher the first three years. It was a different NFL. Toward the latter part of his career, he really paid the game the respect its due, as far as preparing his body and really being ready to go year-round.
“I think this is huge. You just can’t expect to show up in September and have a good football team. It really starts now. 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. We’re a long ways away. We know that and hopefully we can get ourselves in better position, day by day.”