FOXBORO -- "My heart was here all along," said Matthew Slater. "I wanted to be here."
New England's special teams captain, working out Tuesday at Gillette, was exceptionally gracious when discussing his recent contract extension. This spring marked his first experience in free agency since being drafted by the Patriots in 2008.
"I was just happy they felt the same way about me and they wanted me back," he said. "For me, it was a no-brainer. I'm just very thankful they wanted me back here and they've given me an opportunity to continue my career here, just as they did four years ago. They gave me an opportunity to keep playing football when maybe not a lot of people would have. I'm just thankful to be here."
Where signing a three-year, 5.4 million deal doesn't let him forget last year's Super Bowl loss, it helps in looking toward the future. Yes, he's watched the game -- at the urging of his three-time NFL All Pro dad Jackie Slater. He's even been haunted by dreams of XLVI, dreams where the Patriots actually win.
But it's time to move on.
"I think it's important for us as a team to understand, we're not a Super Bowl team at this point. This is a new team. This is not the 2011 team. We shouldn't come in there expecting for teams to say 'Oh, that's the Patriots. They were in the Super Bowl last year.'
"We have to re-establish an identity. There's new players; we have to create an identity for this 2012 team. We're going to have to earn everything all over again. So we're back at ground zero now. We have a lot of work to do.''