FOXBORO (CBS) -- The Patriots are 1-2 on the season heading into this weekend's monumental matchup against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium. One of New England's longtime leaders is doing his best to tell everyone in the locker room to ignore the noise surrounding Sunday's matchup and focus on what the Patriots need to do to win football games.
But still, it's hard for special teams captain Matthew Slater to completely ignore the fact that Tom Brady is coming back to Gillette Stadium as a Buccaneer. With all that Brady accomplished during his two decades in New England, Slater offered up plenty of praise for Brady as a football player and teammate on Monday afternoon.
"To start, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Thomas. Obviously, having played with him for 12 years, I couldn't think any higher of a player than I think of Tom Brady," Slater said Monday. "I couldn't think more highly than anyone that has ever played the game than I think of Tom. As a player, as a friend, he has been nothing but kind to me and my family. So I'm very appreciative of that relationship.
"But I think this week, the New England Patriots need to focus on the New England Patriots and the things that we need to start playing better football, consistent football -- competitive football. It doesn't matter who we're playing this week, that would be the case. It just so happens we play the guy who is one of the cornerstones of this place," added Slater.
"It is what it is. I'm going to encourage the guys to ignore the noise, which we always say around here, but there is certainly going to be a lot of noise this week," he said. "We're going to have to do that collectively, and prepare this week so we can fight our tails off for 60 minutes."
Slater said it will be strange to see Brady take the Gillette Stadium field in a Bucs uniform, but he understands why the quarterback left the only franchise he had ever played for last offseason.
"I've been around this game my entire life and players change teams. It's like someone changing a job; you work at a company for 20 years and then you move to a different company," he explained. "We romanticize things because it's sports and I get that and respect that. But at the same time, I'm sure Tom and other players who left this team will tell you the same thing; they have to do what is best for their families and their own situation."
And like just about everyone in New England, Slater isn't surprised that Brady continues to play at the highest level at the age of 44.
"That's the greatest player in the history of football," he said. "Nothing should surprise you."
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