Matthew Slater Jersey

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will surely be missed by many of his former teammates. Captain Matthew Slater explained what he enjoyed about Gronkowski, who retired from the NFL this offseason.

“Authenticity goes a long way, especially in today’s world,” Slater told reporters, via NESN’s Zack Cox. “You see a lot of inauthentic things, you see a lot of inauthentic people, but that certainly wasn’t the case with him. He was as genuine as they come. His character remained the same from the day that he got here until the day that he left.

“Despite all the success he was able to have on the football field, he was still a fun-loving kid that just enjoyed being around football. And I think that’s the thing that I appreciated about him most — that Rob was always Rob, and you knew he was always going to come in with a smile on his face having fun.”

Gronkowski, 29, finished his career with 521 receptions for 7,861 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns, and will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He joined the Patriots as a second-round pick in 2010, and fought through a handful of injuries during his career, including multiple back, knee and forearm issues. Still, he finished his career with three Super Bowl wins and five Pro Bowl nods.

His contributions went beyond his output on the field. He carried himself with unending positive, which went a long way in New England, where working for Bill Belichick comes with enduring constant criticism.

“Just a tremendous friend,” Slater said. “(I’m) so appreciative of the way that he always treated me. From the day that he got here until the day that he left, he was so kind to me. Always made me feel like he was a friend and that we had a unique relationship.

“I’m just so thankful for the nine years spent with him. That’s something that I cherish as a man, as a fan of the game as a teammate of his. Can’t say thank you enough to him really for the experience of a lifetime getting a chance to play with him.”Matthew Slater is embarking on his 12th NFL season and it’s also his first in nine years without having Rob Gronkowski as a teammate.

The former Patriots tight end retired this offseason and with the Patriots beginning their voluntary offseason workout program this week, it’s their first time together without Gronkowski. Although, it’s worth noting Gronkowski did not attend the workouts last year.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Slater reflected on what it was like to play with Gronkowski and how the team will look to replace him.

“I’m just so thankful for the nine years spent with him,” Slater said. “That’s something that I cherish as a man, as a fan of the game as a teammate of his. Can’t say thank you enough to him really for the experience of a lifetime getting a chance to play with him.”

“Just a tremendous friend,” he added. “[I’m] so appreciative of the way that he always treated me. From the day that he got here until the day that he left, he was so kind to me. Always made me feel like he was a friend and that we had a unique relationship.”

What stands out most about Gronkowski to Slater was how he acted off the field.

“Despite all the success he was able to have on the football field, he was still a fun-loving kid that just enjoyed being around football,” he said. “And I think that’s the thing that I appreciated about him most that Rob was always Rob and you knew he was always going to come in with a smile on his face and having fun.”

The Patriots know they are not going to be able to replace the tight end with one player — both on and off the field — so it is up to everyone to do their part, no matter how small it is.

“Obviously when you lose a player like that, a lot of guys are going to have to step up. Change is inevitable for all of us,” Slater said. “We certainly want to celebrate what he did and then we’ll certainly have a bunch of guys around here that’ll be ready to step up and work hard and hopefully be up to the task.”

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