Patriots

Slater: We don’t believe the undefeated hype

(Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports)

When it comes to preseason predictions, for the Patriots, it’s getting harder to ignore the noise.

On Monday, USA Today unveiled take on how the NFL will shake out in 2017, and it had New England going 16-0. That’s on the heels of other national pundits who have already written (or said) the Patriots have a shot at an unblemished record.

Regardless of what analysts think, the prospect of an undefeated season makes special teams captain Matthew Slater laugh for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they haven’t started camp yet.

“When it comes to a perfect season, when you hear something like that, I guess all you can do is chuckle,” Slater told Bostonsportsjournal.com, echoing teammate Devin McCourty. “I mean, it’s just so hard to even go out and just being competitive in this league. It’s so difficult. Any talk of us doing something like that, it’s not something I’d align myself with or something our team would think or talk about. Right now, we’re just thinking about going out there and stringing some good practices together.

“It’s tough — I would say it’s something we don’t really talk about or focus any of our energy on, because we understand that at this time of the year, it’s about getting prepared to play. We’re a long way away from even competing in a game.”

He added: “That talk is going to be out there, but it’s something we have no control over. Our focus is just about coming into camp and taking it all one day at a time and seeing where we can improve.”

The 2016 season is in the rearview, but that doesn’t mean New England can’t take some things from what happened last year and apply them going forward. That includes the Super Bowl. It’s one thing to watch it for fun and marvel at the epic comeback. But there’s also a practical element as it applies to 2017, as the Patriots will face Atlanta on Oct. 22 at Gillette.

Slater recalled watching the Super Bowl XLIX film last season as a fun memory, but also as a guide prior to the Patriots-Seahawks contest. He anticipates multiple looks back at Super Bowl LI in advance of the game between New England and Atlanta.

“I think practically speaking, we will all at some point in the season, go back and watch that film,” Slater said. “There are lessons to be learned from that game, and we as players and as a team have gone back and looked at the film, just to see how we won that game. But in that aspect, it’s like any other game. You go back and watch the film and take the lessons you can from it and you move on.”

This week will mark the start of the 10th training camp of Slater’s career. For the All-Pro and team captain, the end of July and beginning of a new season brings a couple of distinct emotions.

“When you reach this time of year, certainly I think that excitement is a good word to use,” said the 31-year-old. “The journey that you’re getting ready to embark in, all of us are just so blessed to be doing what we are doing, and we’ll never take that for granted.

“At the same time, there’s also some anxiety there, because it’s a results-driven business. Nothing is given to anyone. You have to go out and earn your spot. There’s a level of competition that exists every year, and as players you know that, and you can’t take that for granted. You have to go out and earn your spot, and then, you just take it from there.”