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Matthew Slater On Patriots' Messaging On Vaccines: 'It's A Personal Choice'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Patriots have an issue this week -- an issue that wouldn't have popped up if Cam Newton were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As things are, the team will without its starting quarterback on Wednesday for the third consecutive practice.

Considering the absence never would have come up if Newton were fully vaccinated, the avoidable issue is a major story line out of Patriots camp this week.

With that in mind, longtime team captain Matthew Slater was asked about vaccines, and his and the team's philosophy toward players receiving their vaccinations. Slater and fellow captain Devin McCourty -- whose wives are both doctors -- recorded an educational video in April to help provide information on the vaccines.

As is usually the case, Slater provided thoughtful insight when asked how a player not being vaccinated could hurt the team.

"I think we've already had those conversations leading up to this point. I don't like the idea of trying to force someone to do something like that, especially when it comes to their health, their body. I don't like the idea of, 'Hey, you've gotta do this because I said you've gotta do it.' Obviously when you're dealing with grown men, they don't respond well to that sort of thing," Slater said. "So we had those conversations. Guys are doing what they think is best for them. We have to respect that, and we'll see how this thing plays itself out. Obviously we want everyone to stay safe and healthy. We want our football team to be healthy and productive. We're just going to have to take that one day at a time."

As someone who made the extra effort to provide information on the vaccine, Slater was asked what his intended message was in that video.

"Look, this is an issue that is obviously a tough one for our community within the football realm but also nationally and worldwide. For me, it's just about guys getting educated," Slater answered. "Ultimately, I truly believe everyone has a choice to make, and they have to do what's best for them. They have to take the advice of their healthcare providers, their family, their medical history, and make a decision that's best for them. So we obviously say that in the video, but I think it's good for people to educate themselves. There's a lot of misinformation out there. If you don't know, ask questions, try to get educated, and then make a decision that's best for you."

Slater concluded: "I'm not going to sit here and bang the drum one way or another because I do believe it's a personal choice."

McCourty spoke a day earlier and shared a similar sentiment.

"Vaccination is a personal decision. That's up to each individual," McCourty said.

In several different ways, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked about vaccination status impacting the football team on Tuesday morning. Belichick, though, opted to answer more in generalities than specifics.

"The league rules are the league rules. We'll be compliant with them. Whatever they are, they are," Belichick said. "Every team is dealing with the same situation."

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