PHOENIX -- The Patriots could be facing a bit of an identity crisis from a leadership standpoint headed into 2023.
The word "crisis" may be strong, but considering that two lynchpin captains over the last decade-plus in New England may retire in the same offseason ... that's significant. Both Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty have been open about the fact that they aren't sure whether or not they'll be continuing their careers next season. And Slater mentioned recently on the Tim Hatch Live podcast that he's still contemplating retirement.
"It's something we're still very much praying through," he said during the NFL's conference championship weekend. "I've gotta be honest, it's one of the most difficult decisions of my life. You know you have a passion and a love for something.
"But things change in life. Things change. It's not just about what I want now. I have to consider what (Slater's wife) Shahrzad wants. I have to consider what's best for our children. We're praying through it. I'm not closing the door. I'm not saying yay or nay. I'm going to take my time and hopefully hear from the Lord on it."Slater said that if he didn't play, he would still want to be a member of the team in some way shape or form.
"I will always consider myself a New England Patriot," Slater said. "If I can serve in the role as a coach, an administrator on the staff, that's something I would welcome with open arms. We'll see. There's always change with football. We'll see how it plays out. The Lord has given me so much, taught me so much, it would be a shame for it to end with me. I would love to pass those things along to the next generation."
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As for the next generation of special-teams standouts in Foxboro, Slater highlighted one name.
"I'd like to shout out our guy Brenden Schooler who I think is going to be the next special-teams great for our team," Slater said. "He also loves the Lord and is pursuing Christ, which is super exciting. I think it's really about the younger generation of players taking ownership. My generation had to take ownership from the (Tedy) Bruschis, the (Mike) Vrabels, the (Matt) Lights.
"I think this next generation, they really have to take ownership of the team and say, 'Hey, this team's only going to be as good as we make it, how we invest in it, how we steward over it, and maximizing our opportunity.' I think we have the young guys to do that."
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Whether or not he's back in 2023, Slater has faith that Bill Belichick and the Patriots will get back to where they want to be after an 8-9 finish that saw the team miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.
"I've had the good fortune of being around Coach Belichick the last 15 years," Slater said. "As long as he's in charge, there's a standard that's out there that that team, that organization is always going to (pursue). No matter what. Even when we meet the standard, he's not going to settle. But certainly when we have a year like this.
"I'm sure he's going to do what he needs to do to make the team competitive, get the team back to where we need to get it."