By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots’ decision to release punter Ryan Allen on Monday was a harsh reminder that the NFL can be a cold business. For special teams captain Matthew Slater, it meant the end of a memorable chapter for what may be a lifelong friendship.
Allen’s release isn’t a big surprise, considering the draft capital the Patriots spent to bring in rookie Jake Bailey out of Stanford. But it also means the loss of one of the Pats’ best, most valuable players in Super Bowl LIII.
Slater and Allen formed a lethal combo on that Sunday against the Rams, executing five punts for an average of 43 yards and pinning L.A. within its own 10-yard line three times. In a 13-3 game, field position becomes that much more important. Had it ended 3-0 Patriots, Allen would have gotten Super Bowl MVP votes.
The departure of such a close teammate and special teams partner after six seasons is tough for anyone. Slater has been around long enough to understand the business side of football, but ultimately he can’t help but feel for his friend as he walks out the door.
“It’s very difficult, certainly when you have a relationship with a guy and you spend a lot of time with him and you’ve gone through life with him,” Slater told reporters in Foxboro on Tuesday. “It doesn’t make it easy. I don’t care how long you’ve played this game, it’s a part of the game that you never get used to, seeing friends come and go. And obviously it’s difficult, as is the case with Ryan, it’s difficult to see him go.
“You can easily say ‘Well, that’s the business’. Well, you can’t forget about the human side of this business, the relationships, the time that goes in, the sacrifices that guys make. I’m wishing him nothing but the best moving forward. I’d just like to thank him for everything he did for me personally over the course of my career.”
Now, Slater moves on to work with Bailey, whose impressive leg power has stood out over the summer. He always had the upper hand (leg?) over Allen, who signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Pats with only $100,000 guaranteed. Bill Belichick could save over $300,000 by fielding Bailey instead of Allen on punts.
As far as Slater was concerned, the relationship he built over six seasons working with Allen were invaluable. Three Super Bowl championships together are certainly sweet, culminating with a dominant special teams performance in the third one. But the friendship they forged on the way will also stick with him.
“The last six years with Ryan were fantastic. He was a guy who was always able to put a smile on my face, regardless of the situation,” Slater said. “[I’m] very thankful for the time that I had with him. I learned a lot from him. I feel like we developed a friendship off the field, so I wish him nothing but the best and we’ll have fond memories of our time together.”
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.