With his absence from training camp the last couple days, questions were beginning to swirl about fan favorite, Rob Ninkovich. Then the Patriots announced an unexpected press conference scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Now we know the reason.
Ninkovich, who joined the Patriots in 2009, is expected to announce his retirement from the league. He leaves as a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots.
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After coming into the league as a fifth round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Ninkovich spent time with both the Saints and Dolphins before latching on with the Patriots in 2009. At the time of the signing, Ninkovich was an unknown to most. However, that would quickly change.
When he first arrived to the Patriots, he was a jack of all trades. He spent time on both defense and Special Teams, doing anything the coaching staff asked of him. Eventually, after five sacks in his first two seasons, Ninkovich’s role with the team began to expand.
Ninkovich’s sack to kill SEA’s drive at a time where all the momentum was on their side. One of the more underrated plays of SB49 imo. Huge! pic.twitter.com/tMNr65P6qU
— ’06 Chad Jackson (@fearthe_beard11) July 30, 2017
In 2011, Nink began converting to defensive end and made a name for himself during the Patriots march to Super Bowl 46. That season, Ninkovich start all 16 games for the Patriots, racking up 43 tackles, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions—including one for a touchdown. The Patriots would fall to the Giants in the Super Bowl, however, Ninkovich had begun to make a name for himself.
What followed was three consecutive seasons with eight sacks. In addition, Nink racked up 127 tackles and seven forced fumbles over that time. He started 16 games all three of those seasons for the Patriots with his first Super Bowl championship coming in 2014.
In what would be his final season, Ninkovich only recorded 17 tackles and four sacks in just 12 games. Now, at age 32, he is ready for the next chapter of his life.
It’s hard to imagine that when Mike Vrabel departed prior to the 2009 season that another linebacker would ever come close to filling the role that the former number ’50’ did for the Patriots. However, Ninkovich came as close as you can get. Creating his own identity as number 50 for the Patriots.
For the team, they will now feature a very young defensive end rotation with an incredibly high ceiling. Trey Flowers began to make a name for himself last season and is a prime candidate for a breakout year in 2017. New arrival, Kony Ealy, seems destined to start at the other end position for the Patriots after coming over from Carolina. Rookie Derek Rivers also offers a great rotational piece to help fill the void.
– Ian Glendon is a National Co-Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on Follow @iglen31 Follow @cover32_NE and Facebook.