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Matthew Slater: Last couple of seasons have not 'been fun' for Patriots

The New England Patriots haven't enjoyed the post-Tom Brady era, having missed the postseason two of the past three years with zero playoff wins.

Longtime team captain Matthew Slater acknowledged the club's recent struggles, including last season's 8-9 finish in which the offense was a mess under then-assistant Matt Patricia.

"We have not enjoyed these past couple of seasons," Slater said on Tuesday, via NFL Network's Bridget Condon. "It hasn't been fun for us. ... I think everybody in that locker room wants to win, but we have to be willing to do what it takes to win."

After winning the AFC East in 16 of the previous 17 seasons, the Pats finished third, second, and third in the past three campaigns, respectively. Last season's struggles were highlighted by Bill Belichick's decision to roll with Patricia and Joe Judge in charge of the offense.

Now, in a pivotal year for quarterback Mac Jones and Belichick, the Pats are ready to turn over a new leaf.

Slater told reporters on Tuesday that linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley addressed the team earlier that morning and shared part of Bentley's message: "Whatever happened in the past doesn't matter. We're here now, we have a goal in mind, and we have to work and sacrifice to get to that goal," according to 98.5 FM's The Sports Hub.

The Patriots have never missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons under Belichick. The club has posted 10-plus wins in the four seasons after missing the postseason since 2000 -- including 2021.

While last year was a dismal affair, with offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien back in Foxborough, Slater believes the club is back on track.

"I like the direction that we're headed in," Slater said, per local reporters. "I think the buy-in has been tremendous this year, but again it only matters if it translates."

The Patriots play in what could be the most difficult division in the NFL in 2023, with the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all looking like contenders. With a tough opening slate to the campaign -- facing the Eagles, Dolphins and Jets in September -- a rocky start could wash away any offseason optimism emanating from New England this summer.

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