FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater earned a three-year, $5.4 million contract to return to the Patriots this offseason, which he said Tuesday was the outcome he wanted all along.
Now back on the job at Gillette Stadium, Slater is working out on his own and mingling with some of his teammates before the official start of the team's voluntary offseason program next Monday. If there is one takeaway from Slater's Tuesday Q&A with reporters, it's that he's once again well positioned to serve as a key leader in the locker room.
A first-time captain in 2011, Slater touched on some key issues that could affect the club going forward, starting with how to recover from the sting of losing Super Bowl XLVI.
Slater said he watched parts of the game with his father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater. It hurt. At the same time, he explained that his father wanted him to relish what the team had accomplished and learn from it.
“I still have dreams, I wake up and we won the game," Slater relayed. "Unfortunately things didn’t work out for us the way we wanted. I think we had a great season. I think we should be proud of what we accomplished. We can look back on that at the end of our career and be thankful for that experience. Now we’re just focusing on the year 2012 and getting better and improving, and putting ourselves in position to get back to that point. ...
"It’s important for us to understand that we’re not a Sper Bowl team at this point. This is a new team. This is not the 2011 team. We shouldn’t come in here [saying] ‘Oh, that’s the Patriots, they were in the Super Bowl last year.’ We have to recreate an identity for this 2012 team, and earn everything all over again. We’re back at ground zero."
In past years, Bill Belichick has described it as climbing the mountain all over again.
As for who will be making that climb with him, Slater said he's gotten to know fellow receiver Anthony Gonzalez and "he's going to fit in well here." When it comes to the rest of his new teammates, he noted that "a lot of guys haven’t gotten in here yet; I expect to see most of the guys in here come Monday."
Slater, whose four-year rookie contract expired after 2011, is glad to be part of the mix once again.
"My heart was here all along. I wanted to be here. I was just happy that they felt the same way about me, and that they wanted me back," he said. "For me, it was a no-brainer."