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Top safety prospect from Alabama has difficult interview with Patriots

Alabama’s Xavier McKinney is fast and savvy and looks like a potential fit for the Patriots because of his versatility.aj mast/FR123854 AP via AP

INDIANAPOLIS — One top safety prospect who has been a frequent Patriots pick in mock drafts said his meeting with New England reps got a little tense.

“That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward,” said former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. “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.”

McKinney is fast and savvy and looks like a potential fit for the Patriots because of his versatility, Crimson Tide roots and New England’s need to restock at his position. Given that the Patriots are known for running a tough interview room, it’s more likely McKinney was just being honest about being grilled than he had a bad meeting.


“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.”

Sunseri, now a member of the Patriots coaching staff in a support role, had been a graduate assistant at Alabama, his alma mater, in 2019.

Presumably, the Patriots aggressive style wouldn’t have come as too much of a shock. McKinney said Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban talks about the Patriots and Bill Belichick frequently with his players.

“He definitely talks about Coach Belichick all the time,” McKinney said. “He talks about the Patriots. We watch film on the Patriots sometimes. I think their relationship has brought him to talk about how they are and how they prepare more.”

Report: Surgery for Sanu

Patriots receiver Mohamed Sanu needs surgery on a high ankle sprain that hasn’t healed properly, according to a report from ESPN.


Sanu was injured on a punt return in Week 11 against the Eagles, his third game with the Patriots after he was acquired for a second-round draft pick from the Falcons at the trade deadline. He missed a game because of the injury, and his production was severely limited for the rest of the season.

Sanu made 10 catches on 14 targets for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 9 , then made only 15 catches on 33 targets for 114 yards and zero touchdowns over the final seven games the Patriots played, including their playoff loss to the Titans.

Sanu is entering the final year of his contract and is set to earn $6.5 million in 2020. The Patriots could move on from him and keep that amount in savings against the salary cap if they don’t get an indication Sanu’s performance will improve.

But, given their needs at receiver, they probably would prefer Sanu stays and gets back to his old ways.

Combine injuries

The sons of two former Patriots receivers got bad health news this week at the Combine.

Thaddeus Moss, the ex-LSU tight end and son of former Patriot Randy Moss, has a broken bone in his right foot and needs surgery.

Van Jefferson, the ex-Florida wide receiver and son of former Patriot Shawn Jefferson, has a Jones fracture in his foot and needs surgery. He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks after he has a procedure next week.


Both players are projected as mid- or late-round draft picks and both are considered good potential fits for the Patriots.

Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.