Slater aims to be the right man for the jobs
TAMPA - When Matthew Slater joined the Patriots in 2008, he was given two playbooks. Teams had pegged Slater as a defensive back, receiver, and a special teams contributor out of UCLA.
Slater didn’t have much of a conversation with Bill Belichick when he arrived in Foxborough. He just assumed he would be responsible for a few positions.
“They preach that the more you can do around here, the better, and I try to buy into that as much as possible,’’ Slater said.
Last week against the Jaguars, receiver Buddy Farnham was used as a safety and came up with an interception. He was congratulated by Belichick with a smack on the helmet.
There have been many Patriots who have been used at different positions. Julian Edelman was a quarterback in college but has become a receiver and punt returner. Dane Fletcher was a defensive end who has been used at inside linebacker.
When the time comes to shift a player, Belichick doesn’t usually hear much protest.
“I can’t remember too many times when a player has not wanted to change positions,’’ he said. “Normally when we talk to a player about taking on more responsibilities, it’s with the idea that those extra responsibilities will give him an opportunity to get on the field more and/or increase his value to the team in terms of making the roster.’’
That doesn’t mean the changes always work, but when they do it can be a career-changing experience.
Despite his versatility, Slater never takes his spot on the roster for granted.
“I feel like I always have to prove myself and I have to earn my time around here each and every day,’’ he said. “Every day that I’m here is a blessing. This is owed to nobody and nobody owes me anything.’’
Special effort Early on, Niko Koutouvides discovered he could make a career out of being a big contributor on special teams. But after the lockout, he didn’t know if teams would have much of a place for him. The 6-foot-2-inch, 238-pound Koutouvides played with the Seahawks (2004-07), Broncos (2008), and Buccaneers (2010) before signing with the Patriots.
“[Free agency] was kind of a delay for veterans,’’ said Koutouvides, who has 101 career special teams tackles. “There’s still a lot of guys out there. I mean, guys who have played and were starters. It was kind of crazy. I didn’t panic. I was just trying to be patient. Especially after that first preseason game, I was wondering what’s going to happen here, because you don’t really know.’’
Rookie mistake Jaguars rookie linebacker Mike Lockley was fined $20,000 for his hit on Patriots receiver Taylor Price in last week’s exhibition opener. Lockley was penalized for unnecessary roughness after leading with his helmet while hitting Price in the fourth quarter. Because Lockley is not being paid a regular-season salary, he will only have to pay the fine if he makes an NFL roster. He could also appeal the fine . . . The Patriots released offensive lineman Mark LeVoir yesterday. LeVoir joined the team in 2008, when he was claimed off waivers from the Rams. LeVoir, 29, played in 32 games with the Patriots. He was inactive for 10 games last season.
Walk in the park The Patriots held a 45-minute walkthrough in T-shirts and shorts yesterday afternoon before leaving for Florida and tonight’s game against the Buccaneers. There were a few players missing, including many who have not practiced in the last few days. Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was not seen. Other players who were missing included Price, offensive lineman Matt Light, and defensive end Shaun Ellis.
Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com.