Like many Patriots players, Matthew Slater isn't used to experiencing what the team is suffering through in 2020.
The three-time Super Bowl champion had never been on a losing team in the NFL until this year, and the Patriots were an incredible 100 games over .500 (146-46) in the regular season since Slater was drafted in 2008.
So with New England's disappointing 2020 campaign about to wrap up, the nine-time Pro Bowler delivered a simple apology to Patriots fans.
"I know that a lot of you are disappointed in the season that we had, just as much as we are. We’re sorry we didn’t represent ourselves in a better way in terms of wins and losses," Slater said Wednesday. "There’s never going to be a moment in time where we settle for this type of season, this type of outing. Like I said, the leadership we have here is always going to push this organization to be great, and to be great in all areas. That’s not going to change Sunday, and that’s not going to change moving forward.
"So stick with us. I know the demands are high, as they should be, and that’s why we love you guys so much. But stick with us, and we’ll keep fighting.”
That steadfast message of leadership is exactly what you'd expect from the team's long-time special teams captain. But will the 35-year-old be sticking with the Patriots for a 14th NFL season in 2021?
“I try not to think about that, especially in the middle of a season, in the middle of a quest, focusing on finishing that quest,” Slater said. “I think that’s something that (my wife) Shahrzad and I are going to have to pray about, and we’re going to have to see what we feel like is best for our family.”
While Slater is still undecided about his playing future, he's sure about one thing: if his NFL career is to continue, it'll be with the Patriots.
“Obviously, there’s got to be desire from the organization to want me back here,” he continued. “I don’t see myself playing anywhere else. So we’ll be praying about that like we have been the last couple of years, and if we feel like the Lord is telling us to do something, we want to be obedient in that way."
Slater's presence both on the field and in the locker room is extremely valuable for a Patriots team that will need to rely on the backbone of its leadership to right the ship going forward.
And even if 2020 turns out to be Slater's swan song in Foxboro, he's still finding ways to view the season as a learning experience.
"I’ve been spoiled being part of this organization. You have expectations, and those expectations center around winning, and we just haven’t done that this year. So it’s been frustrating in a lot of ways, but I still am grateful for the experience I’ve had this year.”