FOXBOROUGH — Those anxious feelings that Patriots fans felt while watching the closing moments of Super Bowl LI?
Well, Matthew Slater can relate. The New England captain was there to witness history in person, but when he sees replays of the improbable comeback victory he forgets all about that.
“I get nervous every time I watch it, like I don’t know the outcome,’’ Slater said Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. “Pretty unbelievable what we were able to accomplish. I’m very proud to have been a part of such a special team in 2016.’’
Still, there are times when he’s watching the game when he rides the same emotional roller coaster fans were on while watching it at home.
“I’m sitting there, almost as a fan, like, ‘What are they doing?’ It’s just unbelievable to think we were down 25 points,’’ said a smiling Slater. “The one thing I won’t forget is the way we looked at one another. I’ve been on teams that were down 3 points, 10 points and the confidence level just wasn’t there on that day for whatever reason. But that Super Bowl Sunday we had it.’’
When Slater takes time to reflect on that night in Houston he thinks about how his teammates never wavered but not so much about the historical impact of the game.
“It’s pretty impressive,’’ said the perennial Pro Bowl special teamer. “I haven’t really had the time to think about the impact of what that game will be on football or other sports. But it certainly will be one that none of us will soon forget. There’s a great lesson to be learned in not quitting on your teammates, playing for one another, maintaining belief, and trying to finish what you started.’’
Slater now has two Super Bowl rings — a fact that he likes to often remind his Hall of Fame father, Jackie. He said the journey to this year’s title and the championship itself had a distinctively different feel.
“You know the price that you have to pay. I had a tough year last year healthwise. To come back on the field and be a part of that was special to me,’’ said Slater.
When the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, Slater remembers trying to find the hero. After this year’s win, he remembers trying to find a bed.
“Honestly, it was just a feeling of exhaustion when we won the game,’’ he said. “I remember rushing the field when Malcolm [Butler] had the interception in ’14. In this game it was like [phew]. Now I can go to sleep.’’
Slater, who took a break from a workout to meet with reporters, touched on handful of other topics, including what it takes to get ready for the season, his tenure in New England, and of course, Roger Goodell’s impending return to Gillette Stadium.
“Even though there is an offseason, it’s certainly our jobs to keep ourselves in decent shape year round,’’ said Slater. “The game’s changed a lot, it’s a full-time job now, so for me, I’m a guy that probably spends more time around here than I should, if you ask my wife. But that’s just the way I’ve always done things.’’
Slater, a six-time Pro Bowler, said his goal when he arrived in Foxborough as fifth-round draft pick in 2008 was that the Patriots “wouldn’t cut me before I got my signing bonus.’’ He’d also like to emulate his father, who spent his entire 20-year career as a Ram.
As for the commissioner, Slater said the Patriots have long since “moved on” from the Deflategate saga.
“How should he be received? I haven’t given that a whole lot of thought,’’ said Slater. “How will he be received? I’m not the one to ask that question. I think you should ask the good people of Foxborough how they’re going to receive him.’’