This morning was greeted with some sad news for Patriots nation, and it was confirmed by 12:15 ET. 8 year team vet and always solid defenseman, Rob Ninkovich, has decided to hang up the cleats and put an end to his amazing Patriots career.
Patriot Career totals
3x AFC Champion
2x Superbowl Champion
24 passes defended
12 forced fumble
14 fumble recoveries
2 defensive touchdowns
7 pass defended
1 forced fumble
1 fumble recovery
Rumors had been circling in the air after Nink missed the first 3 days of training camp and the Pats first day in full pads. Coach Belichick simply chalked it up to Ninkovich dealing with some personal issues. Those personal issues being, deciding on retirement.
Bill Belichick spoke first at the press conference today, over the years they developed a very close relationship.
“It’s with really mixed emotions that I stand here today to congratulate Rob on just a tremendous, tremendous football and personal career,”
“Personally, I can’t thank you enough for what you did for the team and organization, as a coach I’m extremely proud of what you accomplished,” Bill Belichick said “Congratulations on a tremendous career. It’s been an honor to coach you.”
Nink spoke for roughly 15 minutes, and was first asked the obvious question of, why now?
“When you’re trying to build back up when you’re younger, I feel like you can build back up and you’re OK, and you feel OK,” Ninkovich said. “For me, I was trying to build back up, and I just didn’t feel like I was where I needed to be to be what I am and what I feel like I should be for my teammates and fans and everyone who loves me as a football player. And that’s a guy who goes out there and is a good football player, makes plays.
“I was honest with myself. You have to be honest with yourself. I feel like athletes, unfortunately, sometimes they get away from that because they want to believe what they’re telling themselves. But I knew that my time was probably close, and this training made it clear for me that when you go squat and you’re sore for a week, it’s not a good thing. Just that, basically.”
“Just being honest with myself and talking to Bill,” Ninkovich said. “Me and him have a great relationship, just being honest. That’s every year. I tell him, ‘Be completely honest with me, and I’ll be completely honest with you. I’ll tell you how I feel.’ After discussing and talking to going over some things, it was the best thing for me and my family to look forward to the next chapter.”
It got very emotional in the room when Rob turned to Bill Belichick, who was sitting on the floor, stared directly at him and said.
“Coach, I gave you everything I had. I hope it was enough. I love this game. Thank you.”
Nink hugged every single player as they returned to the locker room, thanking them, some were even brought to tears. Just a great press conference, and how personal it felt.
Owner Robert Kraft also spoke and had this also to say about Nink.
“It was pretty easy for Patriots fans to love Rob Ninkovich,” he also said “New Englanders love rooting for the underdog… and Rob was truly that guy.”
Underdog? You may ask, yes. He was exactly that.
In 2006, Rob Ninkovich a DE from Purdue, was drafted in the 5th round, pick #135 by the New Orleans Saints. In his 1st year, Rob had a strong pre-season, showing how good he could be, and made the roster. He was used sparingly, and by week 3, sadly, Nink suffered a season ending knee injury. He finished the year with just 4 tackles. In 2007, once again injury struck, following training camp Rob suffered another knee injury, and was carted off the teams practice field. He missed all of ths pre-season that year, and was waived July 30th, before the regular season began.
On Sept 7th, 2007. Pats AFC east rival, the Miami Dolphins, claimed him off waivers. He played just 4 games for the Phins and spent the other 12 on the practice squad. In 2008 Nink moved to LB to better fit Miami’s defense, showing his versatility. Once again though Miami sent him to their practice squad. They had no clue what they had, and by December 3rd of that year New Orleans re-signed him off of Miami’s practice squad. New Orleans was foolish though, and tried to convert Nink to long snapper. Needless to say that failed, and by July 30th, 2009 he was cut by the team.
Aug 2nd, 2009 the Patriots signed their future and by week 5 of that season, against the Denver Broncos he recorded his first career sack. By Nov 6th, New England offered him an extension through 2011, and finally he could just focus on the game.
2010 was his break out season, showing the world what he was truly capable of. Week 4 against, the team that let him rot on the practice squad and wouldn’t give him a shot, the Miami Dolphins, he recorded his first 2 career interceptions, and a sack. Rob finished the season with 45 tackles, 17 assists, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 3 fumble recoveries. Proving he deserved that shot and that contract extension.
Over the next 5 seasons, 2011-15, Ninkovich was a major part in the Pats defense, and those two Superbowl runs in 2011 and 2014. Over this time he averaged 7.4 sacks and 70 tackles a season, just further summing up how foolish the Saints and Dolphins were. He had his career best season in 2013, where he was one of the captains and recorded 91 tackles and 8 sacks. Rob was also elected a captain in 2015, showing how much his teammates respected him.
In 2016 Nink “slowed down” a bit, suffering a torn tricep in training camp, and receiving a four game suspension for banned substance. He played just 12 games recording 32 total tackles and 4 sacks. But no worries, all was capped off by the greatest comeback in Superbowl history and his second Superbowl title.
Nink you have been a staple in this Pats D for Tha past 8 seasons, solidifying yourself as a Patriots legend. I thank you as a member of Pats nation for your dedication and commitment to being the best you could be, and I can’t wait to see your rightful spot in Patriots place.