The New England Patriots organization is no stranger to the catchphrase “Do Your Job.” After all, a placard of it adorns the hallway walls of Gillette Stadium. Besides being a slogan on a T-shirt, it embodies the spirit of what it means to be a member of the Patriots: work hard, and take direction well.
For Patriots rookie defender Ronnie Perkins, it might be the key to providing a blueprint for learning the Patriot Way.
Perkins was chosen by the Patriots with the 96th overall selection in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft. His undeniable talent had him ranked among the top defensive linemen in this draft class. Still, Perkins had to wait a lot longer than expected for his name to be called on draft weekend.
Perkins’ six-game suspension for a failed drug test (during his 2020 season with the Sooners) might explain his slide to the bottom half of the third round.
Despite the specter of a suspension being inherently negative, Perkins chose to put his time away from the game day field to good use. He remained engaged with his Oklahoma teammates and even served as a mentor whenever possible. In fact, Perkins’ Oklahoma teammate, safety Pat Fields, praised Perkins’ handling of his suspension.
“Since he’s kind of stepped back and he’s not on the field with us that allows him to see things up front,” Fields said last season. “If a younger guy makes a mistake, he’s there to correct them and help give them pointers. If there’s something that we could be doing better defensively, he points those things out to us. It has kind of helped him to be able to see things from a different perspective and help give us a better perspective on things.”
Through the adversity, Perkins’ goal remained the same. He worked to get better as a player, while preparing his teammates for upcoming games.
The Mentor Becomes the Student
Now that he is a member of the Patriots, Perkins is still striving to be better each and every day. However, instead of imparting wisdom, he is the one in need of coaching and instruction.
While he was a star defensive end in college, the Patriots are seemingly looking to cast him in the role of outside linebacker rather than a traditional edge rusher. This should allow him to play upright, which is more conducive to his size and style.
During minicamp this week, Perkins worked closely with linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick. It was an experience that he apparently enjoyed thoroughly, as evidenced by rating his minicamp experience as a “10 out of 10” when speaking with reporters Wednesday.
“I’ve been working with Coach Mayo and Coach (Steve) Belichick. Working on footwork, positioning and technique,” Perkins said.
These traits will be key to a smooth transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. Perkins has a background playing tight end, which he acknowledged will help with his footwork and make him a more effective pass rusher.
Of course, Perkins has some pretty good examples to follow, as well.
“Coach Mayo played here, so when he talks, I listen," Perkins said. "I’ve also watched film on Willie (McGinest), (Mike) Vrabel, (Rob) Ninkovich ... those guys are great. That’s a great way of following an example and learning the system”
Above all, Perkins credited a firm, but informative coaching style to his happiness with being with the Patriots. He is willing to learn from the Patriot greats of the past, while pulling from his own past to muster the strength and toughness required of a Patriots rookie defender.
“I’m willing to take coaching, hard coaching,'' Perkins said. “The biggest reason would be my upbringing, as the youngest of six kids. Dealing with that made me a tough person. So, when the coach is on my back, I know that he’s not trying to belittle me. He’s trying to help. I pay attention to the message, not the tone.”
Though Perkins may have a long road ahead to reach his full potential, his toughness and tenacity have him doing his job, and sounding like a Patriots player already.