FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Longtime New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater acknowledged Monday that the team will be forced to form a new identity without quarterback Tom Brady. In doing so, he said it will rely on some old standbys.
“I don’t think the goals change at all. The standard doesn’t change at all. The pillars that we stand upon, they don’t change at all,” Slater told reporters on a conference call.
“If you go into the season with a defeatist mindset, then you can’t expect to be successful. We have a great opportunity. We have a lot of good football players. We have a tremendous coaching staff. … We have to go into the season expecting more from ourselves than anyone outside the building expects from us. We have to go in with the same drive, the same focus, the same determination. If we don’t, you shouldn’t even step foot in the building, because we’re already going to be beat.”
At the same time, Slater noted the obvious: The void Brady leaves is immense.
“When you talk about Tom and everything he’s meant to this organization, and our team, a lot of our identity over the last 20 years has been centered around him. Any time you transition away from a player like that, it’s a tall task,” he said, adding that the primary feeling he had toward Brady is “gratitude.”
“You have to find a way to deal with that personally and process it. I think as a team, obviously, we’re going to have to process that Tom is gone. Do it in a healthy way, and be able to move on,” added Slater, who is now the longest-tenured player on the team (13 seasons).
“We’re going to have to be able to find a new identity for ourselves. I think part of that identity is going to be built upon things we’ve always stood for and will continue to stand for as long as this organization is led by the people it’s led by. That’s going to be selflessness, hard work, doing what’s best for the football team, serving one another, not having any level of expectation that things are going to be handed to us.”
Slater, 34, has been the Patriots’ emotional leader in recent years, given the responsibility by coach Bill Belichick to address the team in the locker room after victories. He agreed to a two-year contract extension in mid-March, and his leadership will take on added importance in a post-Brady locker room.
“Certainly there is going to be an evolution that occurs within our locker room, an evolution that occurs within our offense,” he said. “That time was going to come in some way, shape or form. What the void is, how we fill it, I can’t really speak to that right now. I think it’s important guys stay within themselves.”
Among those who fall into that category is 2019 fourth-round draft choice Jarrett Stidham, the quarterback who could be taking over for Brady.
“He’s just a great kid to be around. He brings a lot of positive energy. He’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunities that he’ll have going forward,” Slater said. “Certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities. At that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to a successful position.
“I think he has some good traits. His approach, his attack, is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself. Continue to be the person he is. Continue to be the teammate he is. And we’ll just take this thing one day at a time.”