FOXBOROUGH — Matthew Slater is first and foremost the Patriots’ special teams captain, but he has taken snaps at safety and receiver during his career.
With the secondary coming under fire for its play against Seattle — particularly the safeties — Slater stood up for his teammates Tuesday.
Asked if the role is like that of a bullpen in baseball — i.e. to avoid giving up the long ball — Slater chuckled.
“That’s a nice little comparison there,” he said. “Obviously, you never want to give up big plays, regardless of what phase of the game it is. You don’t want to give up a big turnover, you don’t want to give up a big kickoff return or punt return. Big plays are momentum plays.
“In that respect, a lot of us have that responsibility to not give up the big play — and to make the big play.”
The Patriots gave up six passes of 20 or more yards in Seattle, all of them on scoring drives for the Seahawks. That gives them a league-high total of 33 passes of 20-plus yards surrendered for the season.
Rookie Alfonzo Dennard, the only member of the secondary who played last Sunday to talk to reporters in the locker room Tuesday, gave an interesting answer when asked why the unit is so susceptible to the long ball.
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” he said. “I’d say sometimes the quarterback kind of lulls us to sleep. They do a lot of running, then all of a sudden they hit you with the play-action and a big play. You’ve got to stay focused out there.”
The Patriots were in a base defense, with four defensive backs, on the Seahawks’ last possession, with rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner as the safeties; Steve Gregory wasn’t available for the game, and Patrick Chung went off earlier with a shoulder injury.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice for the game-winning 46-yard touchdown.
Slater said there is nothing easy about the job those players are asked to do.
“All I’ll say about that is this: I have played some safety and it is much, much harder than it may look. Those guys have a tough job to do,” he said. “They’re trying the best they can.
“They’re competing, and I wouldn’t want any other guy on my team than the guys we have in this locker room and the guys that we have going out there and playing for us on Sunday.
“They’re busting their tail and doing everything they can to go out there and help us win games. I respect every last one of them. The job they have to do is tough, as I said. We just have to keep getting better as a unit.”
Brady not shaken
Tom Brady’s uncharacteristic play in the closing minutes of Sunday’s loss had some wondering whether the hit he took on the final play of the third quarter — he was drilled by Jason Jones, who drew a flag for unnecessary roughness — affected his decision-making.
In the first three quarters, Brady was 31 of 45 with two touchdowns and an intentional grounding call. After the hit, he was 5 of 13 with two interceptions, a second intentional grounding, and took his only sack of the game.
But during his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady denied that the Jones hit impaired him, saying, “It was just poor execution by myself and poor fundamentals, and that’s the cause of it. I give Seattle a lot of [credit] for defense and I credit the way they play.”
He also reiterated his postgame comments about the grounding calls, pointing that finger at his own decision-making.
“I just kind of stepped up into the pocket and threw the ball over the middle,” he said. “Trying to throw the ball away, there just wasn’t anyone very close to where I was throwing they ball and they made the right call. I’ve got to do a better job making a better decision with the ball.”
Eager to return
Gregory, who missed his second game to a hip injury, couldn’t say how close he is to a return but is itching to get back on the field.
“I’m just going day by day,” he said.
Asked if he is hopeful that he’ll return this week for the Jets, he said with a laugh, “Can’t wait to play. But it’s not something . . . you can’t rush back because then you’ll just give yourself a setback, so I want to make sure I’m 100 percent healthy before I return.”
Gregory, a free agent signee who began his career with the Chargers, said he’s been doing what he can to support his teammates while he recovers.
“You never want to be hurt and not playing,” he said. “As a competitor, you always want to be in there helping your team, but the only thing I can focus on right now is getting healthy. That’s what I’ve been doing, doing what the training staff’s asking me to do and working every day to get better,” he said.
The Patriots will wear their 1985 throwback uniforms against the Jets, with the red jerseys, white pants, and classic “Pat Patriot” logo on white helmets. New England is 8-3 in the uniforms, including last year’s home win against the Jets . . . Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and defensive lineman Myron Pryor are both eligible to begin practicing this week. Belichick said “it’s possible” when asked if either will be on the practice field, but it is believed that Pryor, who was injured in last year’s home opener against San Diego, isn’t quite ready . . . Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, he of the now-infamous “U mad bro?” tweet directed at Brady, was on NFL AM Tuesday and said he has a great deal of respect for Brady and his achievements. Sherman has deleted the photo of him and Brady from his feed, saying that the team’s media relations staff had asked him to remove it.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.