WINSLOW TOWNSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FOXBOROUGH — During an excellent Patriots performance on special teams last Sunday against the Chargers, something mysterious happened.
Matthew Slater got caught up in a little trash talk with Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins, after Jenkins expressed displeasure at what appeared to be Slater clapping after a penalty. Jenkins pressed his helmet against Slater’s, yapping all the while, and Slater went right back at him.
At least, it looked like Slater. He wore No. 18, which is Slater’s number. He looked about 6 feet tall. That also checked out.
But there had to be a mistake. It couldn’t have been Slater. Slater doesn’t yell. Slater may be the world’s politest man, impeccably mannered and considerate. This seemed out of character for the Patriots special teams captain, unbelievably so.
It had to be an imposter. The real Slater must have twisted an ankle walking little old ladies across the street, as he presumably does on Sunday mornings before heading to Gillette Stadium. Maybe a stranger had engaged him in a lengthy conversation and Slater was simply too polite, too nice, to stop him and say that he had somewhere to be. Perhaps he was no longer with the Patriots, having accepted a new post teaching etiquette at Buckingham Palace.
This warranted further investigation. Could that really have been Slater talking trash out there?
“Yes,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
Proof! Slater, a trash talker! How could this be?
“The thing is Slate has been so good on special teams. So when we go into games, teams’ objectives, I’m sure they’re probably like all you hear about all week is No. 18 this, Matthew Slater, No. 18,” McCourty said. “So when we get into games, I’ve played in games with him where on the opening kickoff he got triple-teamed one year in Miami. Where you know, one guy ran at him first and then two guys came at him. So, you know, he talks a little bit and guys talk trash to him all game.”
Ah, so only under extreme provocation? Slater himself did not immediately cop to the alleged chattiness?
“I do not recall,” he said, grinning. “Maybe having some intense discussion.”
“It’s not in my nature,” he explained. “At all. But you get competitive. I respect all my opponents. Everybody that I go against I respect. Sometimes things happen, it’s an emotional game. I try to stay as respectful as I can at all times. Sometimes you just get caught up in the heat of the moment.”
What would Slater trash talk even sound like? Sir, that block was in poor taste? Please continue to work hard and hone your craft to avoid such actions in the future?
“Something along those lines,” Slater said after a long belly laugh. “Like I said, I have nothing but respect for my opponents. I always try to watch what I say. I don’t like profanity and that goes for on and off the field.”
Slater has perfected the art of chirping without cursing. His style of trash talking, when he does so, is more clever than profane.
“It gets going, but Slater rarely ever breaks Slater character,” McCourty said. “So, it’s hard for guys to do but that’s why he’s Matt Slater. He can go back and forth with you in the right way. It makes him Matthew Slater. It really does.
“You have to really do something to get him to fall out of character.”
On the rare occasion that he does, Slater is the first to put himself back in line. The effectiveness of his trash talk is sometimes blunted by the fact that Slater will take it all back if he thinks he went a hair too far.
“If he yells he will probably quickly apologize,” McCourty said. “It doesn’t take long for him to feel bad about any action that we might not even deem that bad. To Slate it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it.’
“They should mic him up.”
No seven-second delay would be necessary.
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