By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO --Special teams was Matthew Slaters ticket into the NationalFootball League. He showed that again Thursday night with a pair of big-time special-teamstackles in the Patriots' preseason finale with the New York Giants atGillette Stadium.
But entering his fourth season, Slater is battling for morethan just a spot on New Englands special teams. Hes also trying to prove hisworth as a wide receiver.
Hes done a pretty good job of that this summer, makingseveral big plays, which include three receptions of at least 40 yards or more.The first was a 43-yarder in the opener against Jacksonville.The second was a 53-yarder last weekend in Detroit. Both of those camefrom Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
The third came on Thursday night, at the end of the firstquarter, and was a 64-yard reception over the middle from Tom Brady.
Slater came all the way across the middle from the leftside, and after Brady side-stepped to his left, he found Slater for the bigplay, putting the Patriots at the Giants 4-yard line, and setting them up fora BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown run and a 17-3 Patriots lead.
It was a crossing route, and it was a route that is kind ofone of our base routes that weve been running since day one, said Slaterafter New Englands 18-17 loss. So I was just trying to do what I could to getopen, and Tom saw me late and put it on me.
My job was the easiest part. Tom makes a great throw. DeionBranch and Chad Ochocinco run great routes, and I just reaped the benefits.I just try to run the route as its drawn up, and understand the concept of theplay, and try to execute the play. And hopefully when Tom throws you the ball,you want to do everything you can to catch it and make a play.
Now that the preseason has come to a conclusion, Slaterhopes hes done enough to secure a spot on the regular-season roster.
This time of year is real tough for everybody, saidSlater. So you just try to go out and do what you can, and make plays, andshow the coaches that you can help the team win games. And hopefully I didenough of that this preseason to be around here this time next week.
If Slater is around Gillette Stadium this time next week,its not just because of his wide receiver skills. Its also because of hispresence on special teams, and the result of him doing whatever it takes tomake the team.
The coaches always talk about, the more you can do, thelonger youll be around here, said Slater. My approach here, since day one, Icame in here and didnt really have a position. But I just love football, and Iwas willing to do whatever it took to stick around. Thats still my approach.
The key is just to stay humble and hungry, and try to dowhatever the coaches tell you to do. If they tell me to line up at righttackle, Ill take a pass there if I need to. Thats just been my mentality andmy approach.
I take a lot of pride in special teams, added Slater.That was kind of my ticket into this league, and its going to be my ticket tostick in this league. I try to treat every play as if its the last. Youve gotto play with a sense of urgency, being a special teams guy. I just try to getout there and show what I can do.
Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.