Slater: ‘My heart was here all along’

Patriots’ special teams ace and co-captain Matthew Slater, who was named to his first Pro Bowl last season, became a free agent for the first time last month, but was quickly re-signed by New England to a three-year deal.

A fifth-round pick out of UCLA in 2008, Slater today said he didn’t want to leave the Pats.

“Well, my heart was here all along. I wanted to be here. 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.”

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Last year, Slater was everywhere for New England, pulling in his first-ever reception in the season opener against Miami, starting games at safety, and leading the team in special-teams tackles with 17.

While he said he still has dreams about the Super Bowl – when he wakes up, Slater said, the Patriots have beaten the Giants – ever the team leader, he said it’s time to turn the page and work toward the 2012 season.

“Unfortunately things didn’t work out for us the way that we wanted. But I think we had a great season. I think we should be proud of what we accomplished. We’ll look back on that at the end of our careers and be thankful for that experience,” Slater said. “But now we’re just focusing on the year 2012 and getting better and trying to put ourselves in position to get back to that point.

“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.”

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The Patriots’ offseason program can officially begin on Monday.

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