FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Jackie Slater in awe of son's achievements: Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater played 20 seasons for the Rams as one of the game's all-time great offensive tackles, and he was named to seven Pro Bowls. His son, Matthew Slater, is in his 12th season in New England and was just named to his eighth Pro Bowl as a special-teamer.
The proud dad still can't get over it.
"It's unbelievable. I wish success for him in everything he does, and I pull for him. It's been humbling to watch him carve out a very special career out of doing the mundane, out of doing the things that 99.9% of the young men that I played with and knew would not have been content with. They would have looked to push beyond it, and quite frankly, many of them didn't have careers because of that," Slater told ESPN.com this week.
"So for me, to watch him do what he's done, and that he would surpass me relative to Pro Bowls, has been a blessing. I just can't tell you how proud me and his mother [Annie] are."
It isn't lost on Slater that Bill Belichick values special teams as much as any coach in the NFL and moved up in the fifth round in 2008 to draft his son, which set the stage for Matthew to have such a successful career.
"There's no doubt that it was one of the most important pieces," Jackie said. "I have to be honest with you, I saw guys, and I was one of those guys, who looked at the things my son does and thought, 'You could get anyone to do that.'
"I've just been amazed at the contributions that special teams have made. I knew when we had to kick a field goal. Or return a kick, or a punt here or there, and that could be a big thing. But you never thought of the yardage differentials. Every inch, every yard during a game is territory you're trying to capture. It's been amazing to me to watch him go about the business of specializing in that.
"If he never plays another down, there's never been another guy in the history of the National Football League to be elected to eight Pro Bowls doing what he does. I think one of the really significant things about it is that he didn't go to eight straight. He missed one in there. Just to see him keep scratching and clawing; once you've been a Pro Bowler for a long time and all of a sudden you don't go, it can be on to the next up-and-coming guy."
Slater added that the two don't talk much about Pro Bowls. It's more about the consistent approach to being a pro.
"You conduct yourself like you want to be a Pro Bowler in every single practice, and every single conversation you have with your coaches," he relayed. "It's about the process of becoming a Pro Bowler. And then if it doesn't happen, you don't sweat it. If it does, it reinforces what Pro Bowl-caliber work and commitment is all about."
2. NFL's investigation picks up: The pace of the league's investigation into the Patriots' videotaping of the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline on Dec. 8 accelerated last week, as sources said interviews with multiple Patriots staffers took place. Thus, it is hard to imagine the investigation taking much longer. The main question is whether the investigators believe the Patriots' explanation, so how the interviews are received will ultimately determine the severity of penalty handed down -- possibly as early as this week.
3. How does Belichick really feel about Dolphins plucking Patriots? Of the many interesting parts of the NFL Films-produced Bill Belichick/Nick Saban film that was released this month was Saban talking to Belichick about assistant coaches who leave for head-coaching jobs elsewhere. Saban essentially said he was happy to help those coaches, but at the same time, there was an expectation that they wouldn't pillage the coaching staff and hurt the team they were leaving. Belichick seemed to agree. Left unsaid was how Belichick feels about former assistants doing that with players on the practice squad, which comes to mind because over the past two weeks, Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores has signed two players off New England's practice squad -- cornerback Nate Brooks and linebacker Calvin Munson. That is entirely within the NFL's rules, as was Miami claiming Patriots cornerback Ken Webster and linebacker Trent Harris on waivers at the end of the preseason, but I wonder where it fits on the "Belichick rules."
4. Harry's response sparks memories of Parcells: Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, who led the Patriots from 1993 to 1996, used to have a saying: "If they don't bite when they're puppies, they usually won't bite." After learning how the heat was turned up behind the scenes on Patriots rookie receiver N'Keal Harry following back-to-back losses in Houston (Dec. 1) and at home against Kansas City (Dec. 8), Parcells' quote came to mind because Harry showed toughness and resolve that should serve him well going forward. Not to mention earn him more respect in the team's coaching offices and locker room.
5. Quote of the week: "He's the best football player that's ever played. I think that's all you need to know." -- Matthew Slater, on Tom Brady, who wasn't voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2008.
5b. Quote of the Week, Part II: “I run through a m-----f------’s face. Offense, defense, special teams, whatever you want. I think that’s why Bill likes me.” -- Linebacker/fullback Elandon Roberts, after Saturday’s 24-17 win over the Bills in which he played a smashmouth role.
6. Another Tippett in the locker room: Coby Tippett, the son of longtime Patriots great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, is a regular visitor in the Patriots' locker room when he's not on campus at Towson University. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Tippett just finished his junior season, and he tied for the team high with five interceptions in helping the Tigers to a 7-5 record. The Patriots give him usage of a locker in the area of the team's practice-squad players.
7. Did You Know: Entering Saturday's game against the Bills, the Patriots' defense had allowed just 16 touchdowns, which puts them in position to break the team record of 21 (from 2006). For teams that played a 16-game schedule, the fewest touchdowns allowed by a defense are 16 -- by the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens. The last defense to go through a 16-game season and allow 20 or fewer touchdowns was the 2013 Seahawks.
8. Gostkowski checks in at Gillette: It is commonplace toward the end of the regular season that players on injured reserve spend more time in the facility, almost as an extended check-in on their rehab, and that helped explain kicker Stephen Gostkowski's presence in the locker room last week. Gostkowski is back to working out after having left hip surgery in October and seemed to be in good spirits. Undrafted cornerback D'Angelo Ross, who landed on IR in the preseason, was another player whose presence was noted.
9. Patriots went to an old standby on 'Fat Friday': One of the fun things leading up to Saturday night's game against the Buffalo Bills was how the Patriots handled their weekly 'Fat Friday' routine. Knowing it was a big game, they relied on an old standby, with team nutritionist Ted Harper bringing in Chick-fil-A as the primary option. Who knew that in recent years the Patriots were 32-2 when Chick-fil-A was the pick?
10. Belichick to play a role in picking Hall of Famers: The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 38 finalists in consideration to be part of this year's Centennial Class this week, and one of the things that stood out to me is that Belichick is part of the panel that will help trim that list to a final 15 -- broken down into 10 seniors players, three contributors and two coaches. The Centennial Class is in addition to the regular Hall of Fame Class of 2020 of five modern-era candidates who will be chosen the day before Super Bowl LIV.