Ronnie Perkins has seen a lot during his three years as a starter at Oklahoma. The NFL is a different beast, however, and one he is still new to: Perkins entered it just two months ago as a third-round draft pick by the New England Patriots.
When he arrived in New England, the rookie joined a linebacker room filled with veteran talent. Dont’a Hightower was back after his Coronavirus opt-out; Kyle Van Noy returned after one year in Miami; veterans Matthew Judon and Raekwon McMillan were added in free agency; Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings all bring previous experience to the table.
Heading into the new season, they will not just play pivotal roles in helping the Patriots’ defense bounce back after a disappointing 2020 campaign: they also will serve as mentors for the newest members of the group, Perkins and fifth-round rookie Cameron McGrone.
So, what have they told him in particular so far?
“One of the biggest things they’ve told me is, like, ‘Don’t forget what got you here. Be who you are. Put in the same work. It’s a different level of competition but, honestly, don’t forget what got you here.’ That’s probably the biggest takeaway I’ve had from them so far,” he said during a media conference call after his first mandatory minicamp earlier this month.
An edge rusher at Oklahoma, Perkins is transitioning into more of a linebacker role in New England. He revealed that he would be spending his time with Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick as opposed to defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington, and that he is closely studying the veterans at his new position group.
“Pretty much everybody in our room has been around here for a really long time. Coach Mayo, he played in the system; Steve, he’s been around the system his whole life. Then you’ve got guys like Hightower and KV, who’ve been in the system for a long time. I’ve got some great experience, some great guys to learn from every day,” Perkins said.
“I just see a lot of stuff that I can do, that they can do better [than me] just because of their experience and everything. They’re used to this. It’s my first crack at the NFL. Still kind of, I’d probably say, at the little nervous point. Should I do this? Still thinking a little bit too much. Just watching those guys, watch how they do stuff and how they’re thinking and everything, has helped me a lot.”
While the group has plenty of NFL experience as a whole, Hightower and Van Noy in particular stand out: the two have played a combined 179 regular season and playoff games for the organization, and have earned a total of five Super Bowl rings. Needless to say there are worse role models to have.
Following them is therefore a smart thing to do, but Perkins is well aware that he needs to do more than that to get up to speed.
“I don’t want to say I have a really good feeling for everything that’s going on right now,” he acknowledged. “What I’m doing right now is just try to come in, learn the playbook, learn from the vets, ask my questions whenever I have [them]. Not really like trying to get into what I’ll be doing, really trying to learn everything and learn what is going to be done.”