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Bill Belichick issues statement on Matthew Slater: "A once-in-a-lifetime person"

Sports Final: Mike Reiss provides offseason updates on all things Patriots
Sports Final: Mike Reiss provides offseason updates on all things Patriots 07:02

BOSTON -- Bill Belichick is no longer coaching the New England Patriots, and he's currently without an NFL job for the first time since 1974.

Yet when Matthew Slater officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, the legendary head coach made sure to weigh in.

"Matthew Slater deserves every accolade someone could receive. He is a once-in-a-lifetime person, and the best core special teams player in NFL history," Belichick said in a statement shared by ESPN's Adam Schefter. "His daily, weekly, and yearly work ethic, paved the way for his unsurpassed performance. Matthew is the finest example of what an intense competitor and human being should be. He has been a great role model for the teams players & coaches) that I have coached. Matthew is exceedingly kind, and supremely loved and respected by all his peers. I am one of many who feel incredibly blessed to be his teammate, coach, and friend."

Belichick has always issued similar statements of praise whenever one of his longtime players has retired, and the messy end to Belichick's career in New England has not prevented him from doing so with Slater.

In Slater's retirement statement -- which was released through the Patriots -- he made sure to thank Belichick for believing in him.

"To Coach Belichick: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pursue my childhood dream. Thank you for your belief in me," Slater said. "You took a chance on me and kept me around when many would not have. It is a great honor to know that I played for the best coach in the history of our league."

Slater's retirement comes after 16 seasons with the Patriots. He played in 239 regular-season games, which ranks second in franchise history behind only Tom Brady. And he played in 25 playoff games, winning three Super Bowls.

Rookie Matthew Slater, Bill Belichick
Rookie Matthew Slater talks with Bill Belichick at a training camp practice in 2008. Ted Fitzgerald/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Back in December, when asked about Slater, Belichick argued that he's the best kick coverage player in NFL history.

"I would say this guy's been as productive as has ever been at his position throughout his entire career, which is very lengthy. So I think he's the best that's ever done what he's done," Belichick said. "Whether that's Hall of Fame-worthy or not, that's a different subject that I'm not -- I don't have a say in. But I can't imagine putting anybody in there ahead of him at that position."

Whether Slater eventually makes the Hall of Fame is, of course, out of Belichick's hands. But Belichick said that he's been fortunate to coach the best offensive player (Brady), defensive player (Lawrence Taylor) and best special teams player (Slater) in the history of the game. Based on Belichick's statement, the coach's belief in Slater extends far beyond the football field. 

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