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End of an Era: Matthew Slater Announces Retirement



New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (18) talks with head coach Bill Belichick prior to an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Matthew Slater played in more games than anyone in history who played all of them with the New England Patriots. Slater has now made what was rumored for months official. Game 264 of his illustrious career was his last as an NFL player. Slater has announced his retirement from the National Football League.

New England selected Slater out of UCLA in the fifth round (No. 153 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. Only three other players from that draft remain in the league (Joe Flacco, Duane Brown, and Calais Campbell). Although listed as a wide receiver, Slater caught zero passes in college. He was converted to defensive back after his first season with the Bruins, while also returning kicks. Thus it is no surprise that the pick did not receive rave reviews. Peter Bukowski of Bleacher Report wrote:

“Matt Slater was a big reach on a team that could have used a little help behind Welker and Moss. Someone must have forgotten to tell New England that they had depth issues outside of just the linebacker position. This was not one of the best drafts and we cannot blame Super Bowl loss hangover.”

Slater was in the same Patriots draft class as New England head coach Jerod Mayo and Minnesota head coach Kevin O’Connell.

Special Teams Superstar

Bukowski was correct that Matthew Slater did not provide the Patriots with wide receiver depth. New England listed him as a wide receiver throughout his career, but he only had one career reception in 16 seasons. That one catch in 2011 went for 46 yards and places Slater first in franchise history in yards per reception.

He did play in 246 offensive snaps in his career but it was largely part of the victory kneel. He played four snaps on defense as well. But it was special teams where Slater made his mark.

If Matthew Slater is not the greatest core special teams player in NFL history, he is on an extremely short list with Steve Tasker and possibly Larry Izzo.

Slater was selected to ten Pro Bowls between 2011 and 2021. No other special teams player in history has been selected for as many. New England enjoyed tremendous success with Mattew Slater on the team. Not was he a member of five AFC Champions and three Super Bowl winners. With Slater’s retirement, there are now no players remaining from the 2014 Super Bowl champs.

When Matthew Slater was in the lineup, the New England Patriots record was 160-79 in the regular season and 16-9 in the postseason.

Matthew Slater’s Legacy in New England

Jackie Slater, Matthew’s father, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The elder Slater had an even longer NFL career, playing offensive tackle for 20 seasons with the Rams. Like his son, Jackie Slater only played for one franchise. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, the elder Slater was voted into Canton in his first year of eligibility. Will Matthew Slater join him?

No core special teams player has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, nobody has a resume that rivals that of Matthew Slater. A ten-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion among special teams players is a group of one. Return specialist Devon Hester being part of the Class of 2024 bodes well for special teamers. Will Steve Tasker gain more traction between now and Slater’s first year of eligibility in 2029?

Slater will not be judged by whether he winds up in the Hall of Fame though. His legacy expands far beyond the field. He was a team captain 13 times. He won the 2017 Bart Starr Award for character and leadership on and off the field. Slater is a past recipient of the Patriots’ Ron Burton Community Service Award and was twice New England’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Matthew Slater is a New England Patriots legend. Despite his unbelievable career, the best is likely still to come. As fantastic of a player as he was, his legacy will live even longer as a person. For any professional to play 16 seasons under the scrutiny of the New England sports fans, yet have nobody have a negative word to say about them, is truly something special. And special is exactly what this special teams ace has been.

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