Patriots' Matthew Slater announces retirement after 16 seasons, 3 Super Bowl wins

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 07: Matthew Slater #18 of the New England Patriots waves to fans while walking off the field after a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 07, 2024 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots is officially hanging up the cleats. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) (Billie Weiss via Getty Images)

New England Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater announced his retirement on Tuesday after 16 seasons and three Super Bowl wins with the team.

The 38-year-old reflected on his career in a lengthy statement released via the Patriots. It began and ended with nods to his father, former Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Jackie Slater, who was inducted into the Pro Bowl Hall of Fame in 2001.

Matthew Slater recalled the experience of visiting his grandparents in Meridian, Mississippi, every summer and watching his father train at a local high school during those trips.

"For the last 25 years of my life, 16 of them as a New England Patriot, I have been incredibly blessed to be able to emulate the man I saw on those fields in Meridian by playing the game that I love so much," Slater wrote. "I have given all that I possibly can to respect and honor the game. Though it is time for my relationship with the game to evolve, the love I have for it will last a lifetime."

The Patriots drafted Slater in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of UCLA. Listed as a wide receiver, he instead served as one of the NFL's best special teams players. His impact was immediate, as he returned 11 kicks for 155 yards and recorded 12 tackles in 14 games during his rookie year.

Slater, a 10-time Pro Bowler, earned two first-team All-Pro nods over his career (five All-Pro selections overall). He spent 13 years as a captain for the Patriots, leading to his reputation as an invaluable locker room presence.

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

Before New England's season finale against the New York Jets last month, Patriots players honored Slater by wearing hoodies inscribed with his accomplishments and his jersey number.

Slater's heartfelt statement went on to assert that his experience was made possible by the people around him.

"My story in football is not my own," Slater added. "I have been supported by hundreds of people along the way. I would like to take the opportunity to thank some of them now."

He offered gratitude to his mother, his wife and his children — all standard names to mention. But he kept going, thanking teachers, mentors, pastors, agents, physical therapists, athletic trainers, public relations staff, custodial staff, football staff and more.

Slater specifically thanked legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who recently advocated for Slater's unique case to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Patriots CEO Robert Kraft echoed that sentiment in a statement released by the Patriots:

Finally, Slater thanked the fans.

"Pats Nation, it has been an honor to represent the silver, red, white, and blue for 16 years," he wrote. "Thank you for cheering, challenging and supporting our team each and every year. To the people of New England, thank you for welcoming my family and me into your community and allowing us to call New England home. We are beyond humbled and blessed. You the fans make an NFL player's experience what it is."