Patriots

Matthew Slater on Josh Gordon's return: 'Football is No. 2'

Matthew Slater on Josh Gordon's return: 'Football is No. 2'

Despite playing a sport that typically values third-down efficiency over empathy, Matthew Slater has no problem speaking up to be the voice of compassion inside the Patriots locker room.

Josh Gordon's reinstatement by the NFL on Friday is a complicated issue. How was it determined that Gordon is well enough to play? Is football what's best for him? How will the Patriots provide him with support when he returns?

But Slater broke it down more simply following his team's preseason win over the Titans in Nashville: When it comes to Gordon, football isn't what's most important right now.

"We are excited,” Slater said of Gordon's return. “I’ll say this: Football is number two. We want to see him first and foremost doing well as an individual, doing well as a man, and we want to support him however we can. We’re just going to take this one day at a time, which is all any of us can do. And we’ll see what tomorrow brings and then we’ll let the day after that worry about it when it comes around."

Gordon was a big-play threat any time he was on the field for the Patriots last season. He played in 11 games and led the NFL in yards per reception (18.0). He was suspended late in the year for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and though his NFL rights have remained with the Patriots -- they signed his restricted free-agent tender this offseason -- he hasn't been with the team for months.

Bill Belichick pointed that out in a statement released Saturday.

“For the past eight months, Josh’s situation has been entirely a league matter," Belichick's statement said. "When Josh returns to our program, we will evaluate the entire situation and do what we feel is best for Josh and the team."

Slater emphasized the point that he and others will welcome Gordon with open arms.

“I think having support is always a good thing, no matter who you are, no matter what life has brought your way," Slater said. "I think support is good, and hopefully he finds that he has support here. I think that’s really all I can say about it now. What’s good, what’s not good remains to be seen.”

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Chase Winovich praised for high motor, doesn't know 'why he's built like that'

Chase Winovich praised for high motor, doesn't know 'why he's built like that'

Chase Winovich had another strong performance for the New England Patriots in the team's preseason win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.

Winovich was on the field for a good portion of the evening, and he got relentless pressure on the Titans' quarterbacks and wreaked havoc in the backfield. All told, he finished with 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for loss and showcased one of his top skills for all to see. And even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick noted it in his postgame press conference.

"Chase is a high motor player," Belichick said to reporters after the Patriots victory. "He plays hard. He's very good in pursuit. You see it in the kicking game. You see it on defense. He's got a good motor. He plays hard."

Belichick wasn't the only one who noted Winovich's performance. Winovich's fellow rookie, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, also noted his superlative on-field effort.

"He's a great dude and has a motor like no other," Stidham said. "He's a heck of a player."

But why does Winovich play so hard? What drives that relentless motor? Winovich joked that it was because his grandmother promised him that if he played hard and didn't get hurt in high school, she'd give him $5 and a chocolate bar. So, he was looking to earn those in today's game.

Winovich did cite some of his motivations, including support from his hometown of Pittsburgh and the bond he feels with his teammates.

But in reality, Winovich doesn't know exactly why he plays hard. He just does it. It's how he plays.

"It's weird. I really don't know why I'm built like that," Winovich said. "It might be a gift and a curse sometimes when it's extremely hot and they're just trying to run the ball away ... But you'll see me just sprinting and trying to hit somebody or hit something."

It was abundantly clear that Winovich's goal was to always be involved in the play against the Titans. He particularly demonstrated that when he ran down running back Akeem Hunt on a play that saw Hunt break through the line of scrimmage and Winovich come from the backfield, after beating his man, to tackle Hunt nearly 15 yards down the field.

And when he wasn't chasing running backs downfield, he was blowing up plays at the line of scrimmage and making the lives of the Titans offensive linemen miserable.

Winovich's motor is certainly a trait that Belichick and the Patriots appreciate. If Winovich, a third-round rookie, can continue to impress and play hard, that should give him a chance to earn an important role with the squad. Either way, his relentless style will make an impact on New England, whether that's on special teams or as a pass rusher.

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