Matthew Slater is no stranger to rookie mistakes.
In the 12th game of his career, Slater lost a fumble on a kick return early in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just two plays later, Pittsburgh found the end zone to extend their lead to 20-10 over New England.
The Patriots never scored again.
So, as Slater watched Patriots’ rookie kicker Chad Ryland miss a potential game-tying 35-yard field goal against the New York Giants on Sunday, he could relate. And when back at the team facility on Monday, Slater made sure to share stories of his own failures with the rookie.
“I shared with him today some of my struggles as a rookie, which have been well documented out there, muffing the ball against Pittsburgh,” Slater told reporters on Monday. “And, Cody Davis mentioned some of the things that he struggled with.
“Failure is a part of your career as a professional. You’re gonna have high moments and you’re gonna have lows. You hope to have more highs and lows, but the most important thing is that you learn from it and grow and try to improve.”
The kick marked Ryland’s second straight game with a miss from 35 yards, in which Bill Belichick described Monday morning as “not good enough.” While Ryland was accountable for the miss after the game, Slater and the rest of the team made sure to reaffirm their belief in his abilities.
“Just keep him uplifted, surround him, reiterate to him how much we believe in him and how much we support him,” Slater said.
“I got your back. Everyone on this team knows you’re a good kicker. So, just keep chugging along, and you’ll get better every week,” Brenden Schooler said to NESN of his message to Ryland. “I have all of the faith in the world in him. ... Unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce our way this week, but I still believe in the kid. And I know everyone on the team believes in the kid. So, we have his back.”
Ryland’s first opportunity to bounce back will come next Sunday when the Patriots return home for a game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Like Slater once did, the rookie will hope to use his failures as a learning experience.
“He knows that we support him,” Slater added. “Chad knows we love him, appreciate him and hopefully this can be a moment for him to learn and move forward.”