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Patriots HC Bill Belichick compares Matthew Slater's importance on special teams to Tom Brady, Lawrence Taylor

Bill Belichick is often thought of as a gruff character offering only mumbled disdains in his media appearances. But hit on the right topic, and the legendary football coach is open to flowery discussions and overflowing praise.

Belichick has long been known to heap praise on opponents he respects. However, the rare glimpses of detailed analysis allowed the great Chris Wesseling once to put together a Mt. Rushmore of Belichick's opponents.

Belichick keeps his praise close to his vest, so when he busts out certain comparisons, they're noteworthy. The Pats coach offered up one last week at the NFL's Annual League Meeting in Florida when discussing re-signing special teams stalwart Matthew Slater.

"Certainly Matt Slater will go up there, in the kicking game, with (Tom) Brady on offense and (Lawrence) Taylor on defense," Belichick said, via ESPN. "So I feel very, very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach all the players, but I'd say those three in particular."

Slater will join Belichick in New England for his 15th season. The special teams ace has netted 10 Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro honors in his years with the Pats. He's one of the few primary special teams stars who is a household name despite rarely touching the ball.

Belichick mentioning Slater in the same sentence as Brady and L.T. underscores his respect for the overlooked third phase of football. Brady is the G.O.A.T., and L.T. is widely considered the most outstanding defensive player of all time. Slater's success on special teams could open a crack for him to sneak into the Hall of Fame, especially with Belichick's flowery praise.

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