Will Sunday be last Patriots home game for McCourty and Slater? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
This Sunday could mark the end of an era at Gillette Stadium.
Longtime New England Patriots captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater haven't mentioned retirement, but there's a chance the Week 17 matchup vs. the Miami Dolphins will mark their last time taking the field in Foxboro. It's the final Patriots home game of the season and at this point in their respective careers, both players are assessing their NFL futures on a year-to-year basis.
McCourty, 35, mulled his uncertain future last offseason before signing a one-year contract to stay in New England. Prior to re-signing, he opened up about his thought process as he weighed his options.
“Hanging out with the fam, getting an opportunity to not think about football for at least a month or two. I think even at this age, I’m going to continue to do the offseason stuff that I usually do, just to give myself that option of what you want to do next," McCourty told his brother Jason, who retired in July.
“I still feel great," the veteran safety added. "Going over all of the tests and all the things that we do during the season with our sports performance guy Johan, I haven’t had a dropoff in athletic ability and the physical traits to play the game. So it all really comes down to mentally and being ready and being able to tap back in and go through a full season. I think those are the things you have to think about.
“But I’m definitely going to take my time and see what happens for the future. I try not to say, ‘I’ll never do this’ or ‘I’m only going to do that’ and just kind of let it play itself out and see how it goes.”
Like McCourty, Slater re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year contract last offseason in free agency. The 37-year-old special teams ace acknowledged last January that he's "closer to the end" of his playing career. Earlier this week, the retirement topic came up again in a press conference.
“Look, I’m just trying to stay in the moment,” Slater said. “Only the good Lord knows what’s in store for me beyond this very hour, so for me, it’s just to try to stay in the moment, enjoy the opportunity that I have. I know my opportunities are fleeting as an advanced-aged football player, but I’m thankful to be a part of this team.
“I’m thankful for another opportunity to come out and play at Gillette Stadium, and I’m going to try to make the most of it. Whatever happens after that, we’ll see, but I’m excited and thankful for this opportunity.”
McCourty enters Sunday with 964 tackles, 34 interceptions, two touchdowns, 108 passes defensed, and 11 forced fumbles in 204 career games (13 seasons), all with the Patriots. He has two Pro Bowl selections and three Super Bowl titles on his résumé.
Slater, also a Patriot for his entire 15-year NFL career, has two First-team All-Pro and three Second-team All-Pro nods to go with 10 Pro Bowl selections and three Super Bowls. He is considered one of the greatest gunners in NFL history.
If this indeed is the end, they'll look to finish their time at Gillette Stadium on a high note with a win that could help them sneak into the postseason. The Patriots will clinch a playoff berth if they win Sunday's game against the Dolphins and the regular-season finale vs. the Buffalo Bills. A loss this week will eliminate them from postseason contention.