Last week, New England Patriots defensive edge Rob Ninkovich spoke to PFT Live talking about the team and his role. And given his advanced age at least in terms of football, Ninkovich also talked about his future, specifically whether or not he could imagine playing for another team. The veteran said that he would not; basically confirming that he planned on ending his career in New England.
It appears as if he has gotten his wish. According to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Ninkovich has decided to call it a career and making the move official later today. Seeing him retire does come as a surprise but a step that was written on the wall after Ninkovich was not spotted for the first three of the Patriots' training camp practice for "personal reasons".
Ninkovich can look back on a unique career. Before the Patriots signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2009, the Purdue product bounced around the NFL – and the football field. The former fifth round pick started his career as a defensive end with the New Orleans Saints in 2006 and spent the next two seasons with the Miami Dolphins as an outside linebacker. In late 2008, Ninkovich returned to the Saints and was converted to long snapper.
The experiment was an unsuccessful one, however, as the Saints released Ninkovich in the summer of 2009. Shortly afterwards, New England brought him on board – and he has been a core member of the team’s defense ever since. As a linebacker and defensive edge, he appeared in 140 games for the Patriots over the next eight seasons, registering 52.0 sacks and six interceptions in the process and helped the franchise win two Super Bowls. Now, Ninkovich is on to the next chapter.
For New England, the retirement means that the team loses its longest-tenured defender and now has to replace experience and leadership, consistency and productivity against the pass and the run. And while Trey Flowers is locked into one starting spot, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Geneo Grissom and Deatrich Wise Jr. are now fighting for the other.