Vinnie Sunseri

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

The New England Patriots have been the subject of many NFL Combine meeting stories over the years. And 2020 has been no different.

Notably, the team told one tight end prospect that he had a "loser's mentality" at one point in their interview. They also asked one of the quarterback prospects how he would feel to replace Tom Brady. And an LSU tight end said that he was "kinda scared" in his meeting with the team.

Some haven't minded the meetings. And one Clemson Tiger actually "felt comfortable" talking to the Patriots.

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Still, the same can't be said of former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. 

McKinney had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the combine and he called his interview with New England "tough" and "awkward".

"That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward," McKinney said, per Nora Princiotti of The Boston Globe. "But Vinnie Sunseri was in there so it just made me a little more comfortable just knowing that I’ve been in the room with him plenty of other times. It was a good meeting though."

Sunseri joined the Patriots coaching staff this offseason but the former Alabama safety had previously served as a graduate assistant with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before. So, he had a connection with McKinney, which eased his nerves a bit.

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But McKinney said he just felt "uncertain" about the meeting coming out of it.

"Just towards the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well," McKinney said. "You kind of walk out of these meetings kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can."

McKinney has a good point and players often are unsure about what teams think of them. That's by design. Some teams really don't like to tip their hand in the lead-up to the draft, and the Patriots are certainly among those that keep their intentions close to the vest. 

So, it's well within the realm of possibility that the team liked McKinney. They just may not want him to realize that right away.

McKinney had 95 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama. He's expected to be one of the first safeties off the board and our own Phil Perry mocked him to the Patriots in his first NFL mock draft of the offseason in January.

Patriots add DB Sunseri, OL Kerbyson in lead-up to training camp

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Patriots add DB Sunseri, OL Kerbyson in lead-up to training camp

The Patriots added a pair of free agents on Sunday, defensive back Vinnie Sunseri and offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson, bringing their active roster to a total of 89 players in the days leading up to the start of training camp. 

The Saints selected Sunseri in the fifth round out of Alabama in 2014. He played in nine games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending broken arm. Last year, he did not see any time during the regular season due to a knee injury suffered during a preseason game. 

Sunseri, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, was released by the Saints in April. Given his ties to Bill Belichick confidante Nick Saban, his special teams experience, and what's thought to be a high football IQ, Sunseri appears to check several boxes that the Patriots like to see out of depth pieces on their roster. Should safety Nate Ebner not be fully prepared to begin the season after competing in the Olympics, Sunseri could benefit by snagging that potential open roster spot. 

Kerbyson measures in at 6-4, 317 pounds and arrives to New England as an undrafted free agent from Tennessee. He's a lineman with some versatility as he started all 13 games for the Vols at left tackle in 2015, but he started games at both tackle spots and left guard as a junior. 

The Patriots had a handful of offensive linemen who were not able to participate in spring practices as they recovered from injuries -- including tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and guards Josh Kline and Tre' Jackson -- and Kerbyson could provide some measure of depth up front should any of those players need to miss training camp time.