FOXBOROUGH — As he works with a coach on one practice field while the rest of his teammates do battle on the other, you realize the end is coming sooner rather than later for Matthew Slater.
That's just reality when you're in 12th season a special teams player and will turn 34 on Sept. 9. Plus, there are the injury issues that have cropped up in recent years. Before playing all 16 games last season, Slater was limited to a total of 22 the previous two seasons. And as he goes through his personal workouts — this is a change for this season approved by Bill Belichick — you can see that things are coming harder and harder for the seven-time captain. This is, after all, a young man's game, especially at Slater's spot.
You also noticed how well Keion Crossen covered kicks last season, and how the Patriots signed Terrence Brooks from the Ravens to spice up a special teams unit that was perennially top five, in FootballOutsiders.com's advanced rankings, but slipped to 16th last year.
Then you wonder how much long Slater will be a fixture in the Patriots' locker room. And that's a little sad. Not sure there's ever been such a constantly uplifting presence inside those walls, as Slater was always quick to flash a smile and fill the space with his contagious laugh.
So you start figuring out ways to keep Slater involved. Jack Easterby has departed as the team's chaplain/character coach and no one has yet filled that void. That would seem to be a perfect landing spot for Slater. NFL players come of no higher character than Slater. This organization would be blessed if he served in that role for many years to come.
And by the look of his smile when you ask him about possibly taking that role, it seems Slater has given it some thought as well.
"I think it’s no mystery to anyone around here that I want to be involved in ministry and I love relationships, dealing with people and sharing with them what I believe to be the secret to life, which is the gospel, the good news of Christ," Slater told BostonSportsJournal.com. "Something like that