The current generation of New England Patriots players has never been in a situation quite like this one: following a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers — the third straight defeat suffered by the team — the Patriots are now sitting at 2-4 and left with more questions than answers. But while those range from the team’s standing in the NFL’s playoff race to the overall talent level, one aspect cannot be questioned according to Matthew Slater.
The Patriots’ locker room culture is apparently still strong based on statements Slater made after the 33-6 blowout suffered at the hand of the visiting 49ers.
“I believe in the men in that locker room,” said Slater during his postgame video conference call. “I believe in who they are as people. You look at some of the things that we’ve had to deal with, with some of the guys and their personal lives this year, and whether they’ve been able to endure, keep faith and overcome. It’s really been inspiring.”
Slater is not just the elder statesman in the Patriots’ locker room in his 13th season with the club, but also the team’s emotional leader especially after the offseason departure of former starting quarterback Tom Brady. As such, his role is an important one: help lead the team through the valley of darkness that has been a month of October that was filled with negative football games and positive Coronavirus test results.
The challenge that awaits Slater and his teammates now may pale in comparison to some of the individual personal stories he mentioned — the tragic passing of fellow team captain James White’s father as the most prominent example among them — but the key message behind his statements is still the same regardless of situation and whether or not it is impacting the play on the field or the life off it: perseverance.
“When I look at our football team right now, obviously we’re in a very tough position — a position that we are not excited about,” Slater said on Sunday. “But if there’s going to be anything that sees us through this it’s going to be our character and our commitment to one another and our commitment to the game. I certainly have a lot of faith in the men in that locker room.
“We’re going to need to demand a lot from one another, and at the end of the day we have to continue to believe in what we’re doing, continue to believe in who we are.”
The Patriots’ current situation is a new one for Slater as well. While he was part of the last squad not to make the playoffs in 2008, his time in New England has been one of unrivaled success ever since: he has been part of 11 straight AFC East championship teams and helped bring three Super Bowls to the organization.
In order to add to this impressive list of accomplishments, Slater and the rest of the team’s leaders will have to set the tone heading into a defining road game against the division-leading Buffalo Bills.