When an NFL Draft prospect gave a ‘wonky’ answer, the Patriots called out his ‘loser’s mentality’

"OK, my bad."

Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.
Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. –AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Jared Pinkney got a dose of what it takes to play for the Patriots.

The Vanderbilt tight end said that after a meeting with members of the Patriots on Monday, he was called out for a specific answer he gave them that was not what they were looking for.

“It’s interesting, because (with) 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,” Pinkney told NESN’s Zack Cox. “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.’ (raises hands) They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.’ ”

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While it’s unclear what exactly the conversation was about, it served as a reminder of the what the Patriots are looking for in their prospects. The “Patriot Way” is a term used to describe the type of work ethic head coach Bill Belichick expects of his players. In a piece published by the Players Tribune, former running back Kevin Faulk wrote:

“The Patriot Way ain’t about nothing but winning, man…[Belichick] wants you to know football and he wants you to come to work every day and do your job to the best of your ability. Anything else, he doesn’t really care.”

While Pinkney’s recent meeting with the team did not show it, he also said that he is familiar with how Belichick operates. When Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason attended Patriots training camp in 2018, Pinkney said the team heard about all that he had learned — for two years straight.

“After that visit, for two years, it was really just, ‘Bill Belichick did this,’ and ‘Bill Belichick said that,’” he added.  “What he said to Tom Brady. Eventually, we just got tired of hearing about it. 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.”

Pinkney, who had a solid junior season and posted 50 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns, did not match those stats his senior year. He caught only 20 passes for 233 yards, while the team struggled all around and was last in the SEC conference. Still, the Patriots have signed Vanderbilt prospects before, such as defensive tackle Adam Butler, who was an undrafted free agent in 2017, and cornerback Joejuan Williams, selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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With the NFL Combine underway in Indianapolis,  Pinkney tested in the 40-yard dash for tight ends on Thursday. His results did not deliver, posting an underwhelming time of a 5.00 seconds. Other tight ends posted times of 4.78 or faster, including Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, who ran a 4.66.

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