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After 11 seasons, Pats' Ninkovich calls it a career

The Sports Xchange
July 30. 2017 7:26PM

New England defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) reacts after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second half of a December 2014 game at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

New England Patriots defensive end/linebacker Rob Ninkovich announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday after an 11-year career.

The 33-year-old Ninkovich, who had been absent from training camp for what coach Bill Belichick described as personal reasons, made the announcement at a news conference after the Patriots practiced Sunday morning.

“It wasn’t an easy decision. After 11 seasons, and 19 seasons total playing football, it’s time for me to walk away,” Ninkovich said, “and I look forward to the next phase of my life.

“I’m so grateful to the Patriots organization ... man, it’s been so much fun.”

Ninkovich entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 out of Purdue. He spent the 2006 season with the Saints before he was claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins in 2007. He went back to New Orleans late in the 2008 season before the Patriots signed him as a free agent Aug. 2, 2009.

Ninkovich’s career took off with the Patriots, making eight sacks in three consecutive seasons from 2012-14. He played in 131 regular-season games over his 11-year career, recording 274 tackles, 46 sacks, five interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries. He also appeared in 16 postseason games, collecting 34 tackles, six sacks and an interception.

Teammates were in attendance at the press conference, including quarterback Tom Brady, defensive tackle Alan Branch, wide receiver Matthew Slater, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and running back Brandon Bolden.

Belichick praised Ninkovich as a player and person.

“It’s with really mixed emotions that we stand here today to congratulate Rob on just a tremendous, tremendous football and personal career,” Belichick said. “Just a special, really special guy.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft called Ninkovich the team’s most dependable defensive player.

“We’re thankful for all of Rob’s countless contributions for the past eight seasons,” Kraft said.

A tearful Ninkovich spoke directly to Belichick at the news conference.

“Coach, I gave you everything I had. I hope it was enough,” Ninkovich said. “I love this game. Thank you. Hopefully my playing career has taught me a lot. Playing for you, I’ve learned a tremendous amount.”


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