The New England Patriots have had a reported five meetings with tight end prospects at the NFL scouting combine so far, but information is naturally scarce relating to the nature of the talks. There is one notable exception, though, courtesy of Jared Pinkney: the Vanderbilt tight end, who already met with the team at the Senior Bowl before this week’s interview, opened up about his encounter with New England during a recent media session.
Safe to say, it did not go swimmingly. According to the 22-year-old, and via NESN’s Zack Cox, the Patriots’ chastised him for not bringing the right mentality to the conversation.
“It’s interesting, because a team that’s been winning for as long as they have you expect them to come in with a certain mentality and to share that mentality and to spread it and impart it on you,” said Pinkney. “And that’s exactly what happened. I gave a kind of wonky answer, and it was like, ‘No, that’s a loser’s mentality.’ And I was like, ‘OK, my bad.’ They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.’”
The meeting was not the first time Pinkney got introduced to the so-called “Patriot Way.” Apart from his aforementioned interview at the Senior Bowl, he also was on the receiving end of numerous lessons by Commodores head coach Derek Mason (not to be confused with former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, who Bill Belichick once famously told to “just f--- you, will you?”) after he had visited New England’s training camp in 2018.
“After that visit, for two years, it was really just, ‘Bill Belichick did this,’ and ‘Bill Belichick said that.’ What he said to Tom Brady. Eventually, we just got tired of hearing about it,” said Pinkney about Mason’s visit to the Patriots. “But in reality, it does help an organization, pro level or college, to be able to go and see what it’s like at the highest level and how they operate and then bring it back to your own coaching room.”
The Patriots, meanwhile, are very much in the market for a tight end after the position played only a limited role in their offense during the 2019 season. Without Rob Gronkowski, who retired last March, New England’s tight ends combined to catch just 37 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season — 20 individual tight ends had more receptions than that, with 27 registering more receiving yards and 32 having more scores.
Pinkney should therefore very well be on the team’s radar despite his interview experience earlier this week. After all, the 6-foot-4 tight end is coming off a solid four-year career at Vanderbilt has the upside to become a solid developmental contributor as a receiver at the next level — something New England very much lacked from its tight end position during last season — and also improve as an in-line blocker.