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Team captain Matthew Slater will return for 16th season with Patriots

The team announced Slater’s decision to continue his career on Friday.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Retirement has to wait: long-time New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater will return for a 16th season with the organization. The team itself made the announcement on Friday afternoon.

Slater, 37, originally joined the team as a fifth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has since developed into the NFL’s premier special teams player and a cornerstone of the Patriots organization both on and off the field.

The long-time captain appeared in a combined 248 regular season and playoff games for the organization, ranking second behind only Tom Brady’s 326. A three-time Super Bowl winner and 10-time Pro Bowl selection — the most ever by a special teamer — Slater also has been voted a team captain for the past 12 seasons straight.

“It is a great honor and blessing to return to the Patriots for my 16th season,” Slater said in a statement released by the team. “I thank God for His continued grace and provision over my career. I look forward to continuing to play under the leadership of Coach Belichick. Thank you to the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization for allowing me to continue to pursue my childhood dream. See you in the fall. God Bless.”

Given his age, Slater’s future appeared uncertain heading into the offseason. His final press conference after New England’s season-ending loss in Buffalo had the general aura of a farewell, but he himself noted that he would not make a hasty decision.

Now, a decision has indeed been made — and it is good news for the Patriots.

“Matt’s incredible career is a testament to his preparation and will to succeed,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “We are thrilled he will be playing this season.”

Team owner Robert Kraft echoed those remarks.

“I couldn’t be happier to learn that Matthew Slater has decided to return for his 16th season with the New England Patriots,” Kraft said in a statement.

“Matthew’s drive to be the best at what he does will one day earn him enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, as stellar as his football career has been, he is an even better person. He is led by his faith and spirituality, dedicated to his family and committed to his craft. There is no better leader for our younger players to follow and no better ambassador for the Patriots organization. He is truly special, and I am grateful that his contributions to the team will continue.”

Slater is officially an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but it is safe to assume he will sign a new contract with the team before entering the open market in mid-March.