Matthew Slater played college football at UCLA, so there was no greater rival for him than Southern Cal. With the Patriots getting ready to host the New York Jets, their AFC East archrivals, in an important division showdown Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Slater said there is an unmistakable atmosphere of a college rivalry weekend.
“You almost get the feeling like you’re in college and you’re playing your rival school,’’ Slater said. “So I feel like I’m playing USC, for me personally.’’
With former Trojans Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight on the Jets roster, this matchup may be taking on more resonance for Slater.
“The rivalry here, it doesn’t really matter what the records are,’’ Slater said. “It just so happens that we’re 3-3 at this point, but they want to beat us and we want to beat them. We don’t have too many fond feelings towards them and the same goes for them; they’re not too crazy about us, either.
“I think in the spirit of the game it’s good to have rivalries like this – for the popularity of game – to see two good teams get after it. I’m sure it’ll be no different this week.’’
Do rivalry games have an amazing restorative effect on injured players, pushing them to get back on the field?
“Oh definitely,’’ Slater said. “You don’t want to miss this one, if you can help it. We know what it means to our fans, to this city, and this organization. The same goes for their fans and their city. It’s a big game, especially with the division as close as it is right now. It’s big for both of us. I expect it to be a very competitive game on Sunday.’’