Patriots' Matthew Slater retires from NFL after 16 seasons

February 20, 2024, 10:59 AM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Matthew Slater, who holds the NFL record for most special teams Pro Bowl appearances with 10, announced his retirement Tuesday after 16 seasons.

"I have given all that I possibly can to respect and honor the game," Slater wrote in a social media post shared by the New England Patriots. "Though it is time for my relationship with the game to evolve, the love I have for it will last a lifetime." 

Slater, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of UCLA and spent his entire career with New England. He wondered if he would even make the team coming out of his first training camp, a reflection of his unique role as a dedicated special teams player.

In recent years, former Patriots coach Bill Belichick had referenced Slater as the greatest to play the game in his role, saying he felt fortunate to coach who he believed were the greatest offensive (quarterback Tom Brady), defensive (linebacker Lawrence Taylor) and special teams players (Slater) in the history of the game.

"In 2008, I came here as a young man with hopes and dreams. In 2024, I can retire knowing this experience has exceeded any hope or dream I ever had," Slater wrote. 

In a statement sent to ESPN, Belichick said Slater "deserves every accolade someone could receive. He is a once in a lifetime person, and the best core special teams player in NFL history. His daily, weekly, and yearly work ethic, paved the way for his unsurpassed performance. Matthew is the finest example of what an intense competitor and human being should be. ... Matthew is exceedingly kind, and supremely loved and respected by all his peers. I am one of many who feel incredibly blessed to be his teammate, coach, and friend."

Slater, who called his father his hero, won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and is the franchise's all-time leader in special teams tackles.

"Dad, you blazed the trail. You set the standard. I hope I followed in those footsteps well," Slater wrote. "It was never a burden. Only a blessing."

He played in 239 games with the Patriots, second in team history behind Brady (285). His 25 career postseason games rank ninth-most in NFL history.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also released a statement: "On the field, his 10 Pro Bowl appearances will likely earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day alongside his father. Off the field, he will be remembered for so much more. He is a role model, not just for young players, but for everyone. He is a man of integrity and high moral character who is led by his faith and committed to his family. There is no finer person than Matthew Slater. On behalf of the New England Patriots, I want to express our deepest gratitude to Matthew, in partnership with his wife Shahrzad and the entire Slater family, for his remarkable 16-year Patriots career." 

Slater, 38, was a team captain for 13 straight seasons, with his postgame speeches in the locker room often referred to by teammates as powerful because of how Slater -- a devout Christian -- would relate football to life.

"As a player, God used the game of football to instruct, discipline, encourage and develop me as a person," Slater said.