Roanoke Times Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: SUNDAY, September 19, 1993 TAG: 9309190045 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: D9 EDITION: METRO SOURCE: The Hartford Courant DATELINE: FOXBORO, MASS. LENGTH: Medium
a) perhaps the next Lawrence Taylor
b) the team leader in sacks
c) an "Apache"
d) a ball in high grass
e) all of the above
The correct answer: e.
It's nothing compared to his teammate, quarterback Drew Bledsoe, but for a rookie, Slade has attracted an awful lot of attention. Most important, he's got the attention of coach Bill Parcells.
"He's made some plays," Parcells said. "We're encouraged by what we've seen."
Last weekend against the Detroit Lions, Slade, 22, made his first NFL start a memorable one. He sacked Lions quarterback Rodney Peete three times and forced a fumble, which Slade recovered, in the Patriots' 19-16 overtime loss.
It was the kind of afternoon the Patriots expected Slade would have many of when they selected him in the second round (31st overall) in April's NFL draft.
The three sacks equaled the most the Patriots had as a team in any game last season. It also was the first time a Patriots player recorded three sacks in a game in six years.
For one game at least, Parcells had his own Lawrence Taylor. The comparisons to the New York Giants' star linebacker began when Slade set the Atlantic Coast Conference all-time sacks record with 39 during his four-year career at the University of Virginia. Taylor had 21 sacks while at the University of North Carolina.
"It started back in college, just because we're from the same conference," Slade said. "We grew up 15 minutes apart. I've watched him play throughout his career. I don't know how valid the comparisons are now. He's a legend; he'll be in the Hall of Fame soon. I just want to be maybe half as good as he is."
Slade has earned another start today, when the Patriots (0-2) play the Seattle Seahawks (0-2) at Foxboro Stadium. Slade will start at right outside linebacker, having pushed Chris Singleton to the inside.
Slade's impact against the Lions was reminiscent of veteran Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett, the team's all-time leader in sacks with 91.5. Tippett, 33, has taken his heir apparent under his wing.
"Tip has been like a player-coach," Slade said. "He's helped me out a whole lot as far as run technique and rushing the passer, things to look for. The things I didn't [see] in college, he's been there for me."
When he was drafted by the Patriots, Slade (6 feet 4, 232 pounds) was called an "Apache." That's a special term Parcells has for players "who run until they drop."
Slade scored more than 1,000 points and had more than 1,000 rebounds as a high school basketball player at Tabb High School in Virginia.
Parcells has been reluctant to praise the Patriots because they do not have anything to show for it in terms of victories.
"You know when you play well," Slade said. "I don't need to have anyone tell me. He's not one for giving a lot of praise to players. I don't need anyone to yell at me when I didn't play well. I don't need motivation; I need coaching. He does a great job of that."
Like Tippett, Slade is quick and has a strong upper body.
"My main asset is my speed, quickness, getting to the football, pursuit, rushing the passer, someone who tries to go 100 percent all the time," Slade said.
He also plays the game with joy and abandon, not unlike Tippett in his early years, which included five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1984-1988).
"You've got to play aggressive," Slade said. "You've got to play with reckless abandon in order to be successful."
Slade has come a long way from training camp in August when Parcells called him, "a ball in high grass." In other words, lost.
"The grass is getting a little shorter," Slade said, "but I've still got a long way to go. I'm just trying to learn and get better every day.
"It was satisfying to play well and to make big plays and try to help us win. That's behind me now. I'm just concentrating on getting ready for Seattle and getting a win this weekend."