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Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater retires from NFL

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater won three Super Bowls. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Longtime New England Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater will end his 16-year career and retire from the NFL, he announced Tuesday in a letter posted to the team website.

"I have given all that I possibly can to respect and honor the game," Slater wrote on Patriots.com. "Though it is time for my relationship with the game to evolve, the love I have for it will last a lifetime."

Slater, 38, joined the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. The former UCLA wide receiver spent the bulk of his collegiate and NFL career on special teams. He never caught a pass for the Bruins and logged just one reception on eight career targets with the Patriots.

The 10-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro and three-time Super Bowl champion totaled 191 combined tackles and 138 solo takedowns during his NFL tenure. He logged 22 combine tackles and 13 solo takedowns in the playoffs. Slater also totaled 637 yards on 35 career kick returns.

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

Matthew Slater (L) was known as one of the best special teams player in the NFL throughout his tenure with the New England Patriots. File Photo by Michael Bush/UPI
Matthew Slater (L) was known as one of the best special teams player in the NFL throughout his tenure with the New England Patriots. File Photo by Michael Bush/UPI

Slater started his letter by talking about learning to play the game alongside his father, Jackie Slater, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams.

"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 [practice] fields in Meridian, Miss., by playing the game that I love so much," Slater said of his dad.

Longtime New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater entered the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Longtime New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater entered the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Slater also thanked fans, his family, the Patriots and others who helped him along in his NFL journey, including former coach Bill Belichick.

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pursue my childhood dream," Slater wrote to Belichick. "Thank you for your belief in me. You took a chance on me and kept me around when many would not have. It is a great honor to know that I played for the best coach in the history of our league."

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (C) was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Former New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater (C) was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Slater won all three of his Super Bowl titles alongside Belichick and former teammate Tom Brady, among other future Hall of Famers.

"A true champion," Brady wrote to Slater on his Instagram story. "The best teammate and an ever better man. Congrats on the perfect career."