Saturday’s wild card playoff loss did not just end the New England Patriots’ season and aspirations to defend their Super Bowl title, it also sparked a new debate about the future of a dynasty that has been established in the early 2000s. After all, the organization now heads into an offseason filled with major questions regarding personnel both on — the team has 19 players scheduled to enter free agency, including quarterback Tom Brady — and off the field.
Inside the Patriots’ locker room, however, these questions about a potential end or continuation of the historic reign over the league have not resonated as Matthew Slater pointed out on Saturday night. Asked about his thoughts on whether or not the team’s 20-13 defeat against the Tennessee Titans ushered in the end of an era, the team captain spoke about the character of the team and its relationship with noise coming from the outside.
“You know, there are two ways to approach that,” he said. “I am of the belief that you can spend your entire life trying to seek the approval of man and no matter what you do it is never going to be good enough. No matter what you accomplish, there is always going to be someone there who is doubting you, questioning you or saying you are not good enough. So if you spend your life seeking the approval of man, it is going to be a long tough life for you.”
“But if you spend your life standing on your own two feet, believing in things that you believe in, not worrying about things that you can’t control and not seeking the approval of man, but hoping to serve your family, the ones you love, investing in relationships, love those that love you and even love those that don’t love you, then you’ll be a lot better off,” Slater continued. “I encourage all of these guys to ignore that because we don’t need the approval of anyone else outside of this room.”
This sentiment certainly reflects the culture the Patriots have built over the last two decades under the leadership of not just head coach Bill Belichick but also players past and present such as Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Tom Brady, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Slater himself, among others. Ignoring the noise — as pointed out by a sign placed near the exit at the team’s Gillette Stadium premises — is a big part of that.
“I think that we have already proven ourselves as men and ultimately that is all that is going to matter. It is great to go out and compete on the football field and give it everything that we have, but I do believe that the things that we stand for in light of eternity are much bigger than the game of football,” continued the 34-year-old before also talking about his team’s playoff exit — one he described as a crash landing.
“It is very emotional,” said Slater. “You put a lot into this, spend a lot of time away from your family, spend a lot of time in pain, you spend a lot of time in this locker room investing in relationships and really you never want to see it end. But the reality is that it is going to end like this for all but one team and unfortunately this year we aren’t that team.”