Longtime Patriots Captain Announces Retirement – Who Is the Greatest Special Teamer of All Time?

With Matthew Slater's retirement on Tuesday, the New England Patriots saw another longtime captain and legend retire. We review his legendary career.

Over the last quarter century, the New England Patriots have had a history of producing some of the greatest players to ever dawn an NFL uniform. From players like Tom Brady and Ty Law to special-teams stars like Matthew Slater. New England has seen legends of the game come and go throughout the decades, and you can now add Slater to the list of former.

Longtime Patriots Captain Matthew Slater Announces Retirement

What was rumored to be happening as the season wound down, turned out to be true on Tuesday morning as Slater, the longtime Patriots special-teams captain, decided to retire from the NFL.

“Pats Nation, it has been an honor to represent the silver, red, white, and blue for 16 years. Thank you for cheering, challenging, and supporting our team each and every year. To the people of New England, thank you for welcoming my family and me into your community and allowing us to call New England home.”

Slater played 16 seasons in the NFL, all with the Patriots. He spent the overwhelming majority of that time holding down and being the leader of the special teams that were some of the best groups in the league at times.

Slater finishes his career as a three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time All-Pro, and a 10-time Pro Bowler, capping off what may be the most accomplished career of any special-teams player the league has ever seen.

As the Patriots move onto the next chapter of their historic franchise with new leadership at head coach, they will also be doing so with one less leader in the locker room.

Who Is the Greatest Special Teamer of All Time?

A debate can be had about just who was the greatest to ever man a special-teams role consistently over the course of NFL history. For Bill Belichick’s money, he believes it’s Slater who wears the crown.

Belichick has coached some of the greatest the game has ever seen, and when he has those conversations, he makes sure that he includes Slater in those talks.

There is no question that Slater is in elite company, and a future bust in Canton, Ohio is certainly on his horizon.

However, the league has a long distinct history of hardnose, tough individuals who took pride in holding down arguably the toughest role.

Special teams are a thankless and sometimes forgotten job. With there being many greats to discuss alongside Slater, we take a look at a few who may be worthy of mentioning as well.

Steve Tasker

Steve Tasker played 13 seasons in the NFL and was a seven-time Pro Bowler for the Buffalo Bills. Tasker covered kicks as a gunner, blocked kicks, returned punts and kickoffs, and occasionally, was the holder on placements. He also dabbled in being a personal protector and remains the only special-teams player to ever be voted MVP of the Pro Bowl.

Michael Bates

Michael Bates played 11 NFL seasons with six different teams, including Seattle, Carolina, Cleveland, Washington, New York Jets, and Dallas. He was a five-time Pro Bowler during his career and is a member of the 1990’s All-Decade Team.

KEEP READING: How Many Kickers Are There in the NFL Hall of Fame?

Bates was truly a do-it-all athlete with toughness that has ever rarely been matched.

Elbert Shelley

Elbert Shelley played in the NFL for 11 years, all for the Atlanta Falcons. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and is credited with being one of the game’s best gunners to ever dawn the role.

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