Matthew Slater announces retirement after 16 seasons with Patriots

FOXBORO — After spending the last 16 years chasing down kick returners and being one of the best leaders in the Patriots locker room, Matthew Slater has decided to call it a career. The 38-year-old announced his retirement via the Patriots on Tuesday.

“Pats Nation, it has been an honor to represent the silver, red, white and blue for 16 years,” Slater wrote. “Thank you for cheering, challenging and supporting our team each and every year. To the people of New England, thank you for welcoming my family and me into your community and allowing us to call New England home. We are beyond humbled and blessed. You the fans make an NFL player’s experience what it is. Thank you for supporting not only me but our great game.”

Slater was contemplating retirement last offseason, but ultimately decided to come back for one more season in 2023. The Patriots went above and beyond to honor Slater in Week 18, with the team rocking special No. 18 hoodies during pregame warmups. Slater’s parents were also on hand, sharing a moment with their son on the field ahead of his final game in the NFL. 

In his announcement, Slater expressed his deep and sincere thanks to the Kraft family, Bill Belichick, and of course his own father, Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.

“For the last 25 years of my life, 16 of them as a New England Patriot, I have been incredibly blessed to be able to emulate the man I saw on those fields in Meridian by playing the game that I love so much,” Slater said, referring to his father’s offseason workouts in Mississippi. “I have 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.”

He concluded his message by saying, “Dad, you blazed the trail. You set the standard. I hope I didn’t miss anything. I hope I followed those footsteps well. It was never a burden. Only a blessing. A gift from the Lord.”

Slater has been a staple of Patriots football since New England drafted him in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of UCLA. Slater not only won three Super Bowls during his time in a Patriots uniform, but also became one of the best special teams players to ever do it in the NFL.

Slater was named a Pro Bowler 10 times during his career, giving him the most Pro Bowl nods for a special teams player in NFL history. He also earned a pair of First Team All-Pro honors, in 2016 and 2019, and retires as New England’s all-time leader in special teams tackles with 159. Slater ranks third among all NFL players in special teams tackles since 1994, trailing only Larry Izzo (205) and Keith Burns (197).

But he was so much more to the Patriots than just a few special teams tackles every Sunday. Slater was a team captain the last 13 seasons, and his leadership in the locker room and throughout the NFL community made him one of the most well-respected figures around the league.

Sometime in the near future, Slater will get a red jacket and take his spot among New England greats in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Canton may also come calling if special teams players begin to get their proper love from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


 

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