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An extra special Christmas for Patriots captain Matthew Slater

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s an extra special Christmas for New England Patriots captain Matthew Slater, as it’s his first with both his wife, Shahrzad, and their newborn son, Jeremiah.

Slater, one of the team’s emotional and spiritual leaders, was caught by surprise in late November when Jeremiah was born. At that point, the couple figured they were just entering the red zone with the pregnancy, not yet ready to cross the goal line.

“Like my wife always says, Jeremiah couldn’t wait to get out and join us,” the personable Slater said Thursday. “We’re just thankful that we have our son, he’s doing well, and he and his mom are now at home and everything is well. Sometimes things don’t always happen the way you plan them and the timing that you plan them. But I’m a firm believer in God’s timing and He makes no mistakes.”

The joy of fatherhood has changed everything for the 30-year-old Slater, an eight-year veteran who has spent his entire career in New England and was named to his fifth straight Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

“The biggest shock that first week was us adjusting to becoming parents,” he said. “You have someone that is totally dependent on you for their every need, and it was a bit overwhelming at first. You wonder if you are going to measure up. We’re just so thankful.”

Jeremiah’s arrival adds another layer to what has already been a memorable year for Slater, who grew up in Anaheim, California. After winning his first Super Bowl, he and Shahrzad were married the following Saturday. The bond between them had blossomed over the years after being introduced by a mutual friend.

“I certainly feel like I out-kicked my coverage,” he cracked, after noting that their shared faith was a catalyst as well.

“There have been a lot of changes in my personal life over the last year, and it’s really put a lot of things in perspective for me and I’m so appreciative of having my family and being able to experience life with them. So this is a very special Christmas for us, definitely.”

Slater said Jeremiah is named after the prophet who served God in the Old Testament, and that his middle name is Ray, which is also the middle name of Slater’s father, Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater.

Today, as it always is, will be a day of reflection for the Slaters.

“It’s easy to get caught up in gift giving and gift receiving. But for us, the greatest gift is Christ, and his birth, and being able to celebrate that,” he said. “So we’re going to take time to reflect on that, and we’re going to enjoy time with our son. We have a lot to be thankful for. I know I certainly do professionally and personally.”

In a bit of a surprise, coach Bill Belichick gave players the day off. Slater sees a benefit to getting off his feet and relaxing a bit, as “it’s been a long season and we can use a little rest.”

At the same time, there hasn’t been much rest at home, where the scouting report on Jeremiah is that “All he does is eat; I feel like he may have some offensive line genes in there the way he loves to eat.”

Those genes are in the family, of course.

Meanwhile, for Matthew and Shahrzad, this Christmas will be most memorable.

“I’m just so grateful for the two of them,” Slater said. “They give me the motivation I need every day to come in there and do a good job.”