By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In Foxboro, when it comes to talking to the media, players and coaches generally like to keep things focused on their current task at hand — especially if the Patriots are coming off a loss. Any question about other teams or other situations that don’t directly relate to that week’s opponent generally gets politely — or, occasionally, not so politely — rejected.
But longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater made an obvious exception this week, when he was asked about Stephen Gostkowski, a man who’s meant a lot to the Patriots’ special teams units over the previous 14 seasons.
“Stephen remains a very good friend,” Slater said Wednesday via video conference with reporters. “We speak often. He’s someone who really showed me the ropes here, him and Larry Izzo kind of showed me how to be a pro. So I’m very thankful for my time with Stephen. I played 12 years with him, I’ll always be rooting for him — whether it’s as a Tennessee Titan or just a dad coaching his sons. He’ll always have a fan in me.”
Gostkowski was drafted by the Patriots in 2006. Two years later, Slater showed up, and the two shared countless hours together as special teams leaders for the Patriots. They won three Super Bowls together and won a whole lot of football games along the way.
Coming off hip surgery, Gostkowski was released by the Patriots in the offseason, prior to the final year of his contract. He signed on with the Tennessee Titans late in training camp, and he got off to a rough start.
In Week 1, he missed three field goals — from 47, 44, and 42 yards out — and also missed a PAT, a shocking number of misses for one of the sport’s most accurate kickers of all time. But he redeemed himself at the end when he booted a 25-yard game-winning field goal with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, lifting the Titans to a 16-14 victory.
In Week 2, he missed another PAT, but he made another game-winning kick, this one a 49-yarder to give Tennessee a three-point lead with 1:36 remaining.
Back-to-back weeks Stephen Gostkowski comes through in the clutch. #Titans
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
Overall, the 36-year-old Gostkowski is 4-for-6 on PATs and 3-for-6 on field goals.
The Titans ended the Patriots’ season last year with a stunning playoff victory in Foxboro. Despite that recent bad taste, Slater said he’ll be rooting for his friend down in Nashville this season.
“I support him in everything he does because that’s what he’s done for me. He’s always been there,” Slater said. “He’s always been a great friend. He’s always given me a lot of encouragement. So, exciting to see him have an opportunity to play again, to be healthy, and he’s with obviously a great organization, and there’s a lot of familiarity with him and Mike [Vrabel]. So I’ll be pulling for Stephen all year long.”