FOXBORO, Mass. — A mutual attraction led the New England Patriots to sign running back Bishop Sankey to their practice squad this week.
When Sankey, whom the Tennessee Titans released two years after making him a second-round draft pick, cleared waivers Sunday at noon, five teams came calling.
So why did Sankey choose the Patriots?
“Really just the culture they created, that Coach (Bill) Belichick has created,” Sankey said Tuesday. “They’re a winning team, and that’s really what attracted the most.”
The Patriots showed interest in Sankey back in 2014, when they were looking to groom a new running back as Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley entered contract years. The Patriots worked out Sankey at his pro day at Washington, but he was the first running back selected in his draft class, going 54th overall and eight picks before New England took quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“That’s always stuck in my mind,” Sankey said about the workout. “I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to get to work and just pick up the system and learn it.”
The Patriots instead grabbed James White out of Wisconsin in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Sankey is on the practice squad now, but based on his pedigree, he could offer more upside than White or rookie D.J. Foster in the Patriots’ third-down role left vacant by Dion Lewis, who is on the physically unable to perform list.
Sankey certainly is a better athlete than White. Sankey ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with a 1.53-second 10-yard split, and he also posted a 6.75-second three-cone, 4-second short shuttle, 35.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot and 6-inch broad jump, and 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
White ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with a 1.60-second 10-yard split, and also posted a 7.05-second three-cone, 4.20-second short shuttle, 32-inch vertical leap, 9-foot and 6-inch broad jump, and 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Sankey, who’s 5-foot-10, 209 pounds, doesn’t only categorize himself as a third-down back, though.
“I feel like I can play every down,” he said. “I just gotta go out here and pick up the playbook and prove it at practice each day.”
Sankey had 199 carries for 762 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Titans and added 32 receptions for 272 yards with one score. So what didn’t work out in Tennessee?
“Honestly, the coaches just had their preferences in running backs,” Sankey said. “They had brought two new guys in. We had a lot of numbers. I just felt I was a result of that. I’m just trying to move forward and get things picked up around here and try to pick up as much as I can and pick up as much as I can as quickly as I can.”
The Titans traded for DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry this offseason. They also chose to keep Antonio Andrews, another big back, over Sankey.
Being on the practice squad is a new role for Sankey. But he’s embracing it while also trying to get back on a 53-man roster.
“It’s definitely urgent,” Sankey said. ” I’m taking that upon myself just to improve every day, pick up the system and make plays at practice. The rest will take care of itself.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports Images