New England Patriots

Bill Belichick makes case for Matthew Slater's Hall of Fame candidacy

"He’s just about the perfect player."

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Bill Belichick took a moment on Friday to show his appreciation for the New England Patriots' longest-tenured player, special teams captain Matthew Slater.

Slater's 16-year NFL career could be nearing its end. The three-time Super Bowl champion mulled retirement last offseason before signing a one-year contract to stay in New England. With two weeks remaining in the 2023 season, Belichick reflected on all that Slater has brought to the organization.

“He’s just about the perfect player,” Belichick told reporters. “He does everything you want him to do for your team. He’s the first guy in, last one out, and is a minimal playtime player in terms of the total number of plays he plays, but the way he trains, the way he prepares, communication, he does everything he can to help the team.

“Has tremendous, total respect from everybody in the organization. Players, coaches, staff, you name it. And he’s earned it. He earns it every day. … Every day he comes in like he might get cut that day. Prepares and practices and performs like, ‘If I don’t do good today, I might not be here tomorrow.’ That’s a tremendous attitude. All the Pro Bowls and recognition that’s so well deserved, and personally, what he brings to the team off the field: leadership, work ethic, guidance, motivation, etc. is very unique and extraordinary. At the very top.”

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Slater is a 10-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro gunner. Despite his impressive accolades, his odds of an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame appear slim. Only five special teamers have ever been inducted, and none of them are gunners.

Belichick believes Slater could be the first.

“I think Slater really is eventually going to be a Hall of Fame candidate,” Belichick said. “As a coverage player, not as a specialist and he’s not a returner. So, he’s in a very unique category, one that I don’t think is represented in the Hall of Fame. But based on what he did during his career, the length of time he did it, and the level he’s done it at. … I would say this guy has been as productive as anybody has ever been at his position throughout his entire career, which is very lengthy. I think he’s the best that’s ever done what he’s done.”

There's an argument to be made that former Buffalo Bills special teamer Steve Tasker should be inducted before Slater. Tasker was selected to seven Pro Bowls and is widely considered the greatest special teams player of all time.

Asked whether Slater should have to wait until Tasker gets into Canton, Belichick made it clear where he stands in the debate.

"Yeah, I think Slater's done more than Tasker," Belichick said. "And I respect Tasker, but I just honestly think he's done more. I'm sure some people disagree with that, but ... those two would be at that position, yeah."

Last week's win over the Denver Broncos marked the first game Slater has been inactive for since 2017. The 38-year-old sat out due to a hamstring injury, but he appears on track to play in the penultimate game of the season -- and potentially his career -- this Sunday in Buffalo.

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