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Monday, 31 July 2017 02:11

Rob Ninkovich A True New England Patriot Retires After 11 Seasons

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Rob Ninkovich Celebrates Super Bowl XLIX Victory Rob Ninkovich Celebrates Super Bowl XLIX Victory John W. McDonough - Getty Images

A fan favorite and my personal favorite player, Rob Ninkovich retires after 11 seasons. 

On July 30, 2017, a bright and sunny day, fans lining up to see their favorite player’s practice, sweating in the mid-summer heat, we as a fan base received news that shocked us. Rob Ninkovich retired after 11 seasons in the NFL. Anyone who know me knows that Rob Ninkovich is my all-time favorite player. I could not believe the news, but here is what you should know about Rob Ninkovich.

Up until a couple of days ago, Ninkovich seemed like he was full go for his 12th season and 9th as a New England Patriot. He mentioned how he could not imagine playing for another team, but that seemed like a situation that was at least another year from now, little did we know he was thinking about hanging it up just days later. The rumors began to circulate after the first day of training camp. Ninkovich who barely misses a day was absent. It was reported for personal reasons and then hour’s late reports came out that he was contemplating retirement. Yes he is 33 years old and in the last year of his deal, but for the most part, it seemed like we would see Ninko in the Red, White, and Blue one last year.

It is hard to figure out where to start when you talk about the Croatian Ironman. He has stats, he has the clutch plays, and he’s been a rock for the defense for 8 seasons. In the end though, I think one of the biggest things about him was his effort and consistency. I don’t think there are many other players that brought it each and every week like he did. Playing well over 90% of the defensive snaps for a majority of his New England career, he impressed every game. He was durable and consistent. Whether it was setting an edge, making a tackle for loss, coming up with a big sack, or recovering a fumble as he did better than anyone, he was always around the ball and making a play.

One thing I am trying not to do is spout off stats because that is not what it was about with Ninkovich. He was unselfish and always made sure either her or his teammates were in a position to make a play. The very play that made him my favorite player is a perfect example. It was 2011, the Patriots were in Denver playing against the surging Tebow lead Broncos. Tim Tebow was playing the entire league like a fiddle with his read option, but the Patriots and Rob Ninkovich were disciplined. Tebow started running to his left and Willis McGahee was waiting for him to pitch it to him. Ninkovich had Tebow lined up for a big blow, but all of the sudden, Ninko runs right past Tebow and covers up the open McGahee. Next thing you know, Gerrad Warren (yeah, remember him? Throwback am I right?) came in and walloped Tebow. If Ninkovich went for the tackle, Tebow would have just pitched it to McGahee, but he knew better and covered his guy and bang, Warren flattens Tebow. It is not like that is the most impressive football play ever, but that’s the thing, Ninkovich did not need to make the most impressive plays, he simpy made plays. You know those plays that when you’re watching you throw your hands up in the air and go “OH MY GOD, A POP WARNER PLAYER WOULD HAVE MADE THAT!!” Yeah, you did not have to worry about that with Ninkovich, he did not let up the little plays, nor did he with the big plays. He did his job and sometimes someone else would make the big tackle, and other times, he was smothering Mark Sanchez in overtime to force a fumble to seal the victory.

Another play that some may not think of is a huge play he made in Super Bowl XLIX. In the super bowl against the Seahawks, the Patriots found themselves down by 10 points with about 13 minutes left in the game. It was 3rd and 7 on Seattle’s 39 yard line. They were rolling all half and New England needed a stop badly. After the ball was snapped, Ninkovich loops to his right around the offensive line and finds an opening between the left guard and center and guns towards Wilson and taking him down for the sack. This led to the Patriots having momentum and scoring twice to take the lead and as we all know, for Malcolm Butler to etch his name in football history. One other play from the super bowl that is forgotten is how the Seahawks could have been up by 14 rather than 10. After scoring in 29 seconds before the half, the Seahawks received the ball to start the second half. They marched down the field and found themselves in a 3rd and 2 around the 15 yard line. With a runner as unstoppable like Marshawn Lynch and an elusive Quarterback like Russell Wilson, it seemed like an easy conversion. Rob Ninkovich showed off his savvy veteran ways yet again though. Ninkovich had contain most of the night on Wilson, but on this play, Hightower was off the line and lurking behind Ninkovich in case the Quarterback kept the ball. This lead to the right tackle not taking account for Ninkovich since he was usually in contain and the play called for the line to block down to the left and away from Ninkovich. This left him unblocked and he cut the distance between him and Lynch in the blink of an eye and made the tack for loss causing a 4th down and field goal rather than a possible touch down.

So I gave you the explanation of just how important his play is, but I will in fact spout off some stats at you. Rob Ninkovich has racked up 460 Tackles with 46 Sacks. He has snagged 5 INTs. He has 10 Forced Fumbles and had a league leading 14 Fumble Recoveries. Ninkovich found himself in the end zone for 2 TD’s. Lastly, he is part of history and is a 2 time Super Bowl Champion. One other thing, he is a legend and forever will be a Patriot great.

Thank you for all of the great memories, Rob Ninkovich. It is a bummer we will no longer see you patrolling the edge of the line on Sunday’s, but to see you go out as a champion with a press conference with all of your teammates, coaches, and family, what more could you ask for? Good luck in the next chapter of your life. Hopefully we see you coaching on the sidelines soon or making appearances around here in New England. Here’s to you champ, today is your day. #ThankYouNinko 

Charles Russek

Charles Russek is a member of the CLNS Radio New England Patriots beat team.  Currently serving as the staff writer for the Patriots Beat Podcast, Charles provides coverage of one of the most foreknown podcasts covering the four-time Super Bowl Champions.  You can also hear Charles on the CLNS Radio New England Patriots Post Game Show which goes live after every single Pats game available on CLNSRadio.com and iTunes and Stitcher.  He is studying Criminal Justice at Plymouth State University.
Follow Charles on Twitter: @chuck_wagonn

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