11 consistent seasons and two Super Bowl championships later, Rob Ninkovich is retired from the NFL. The versatile edge defender made his announcement at New England Patriots training camp following an introduction from Bill Belichick.
Patriots teammates, including Tom Brady, show up for Rob Ninkovich retirement presser. Shows respect Ninkovich has among his peers. pic.twitter.com/8fDpOOCIyE
New England Patriots Linebacker Rob Ninkovich Retires
The reason why Ninkovich retired from the NFL is hard to understand. In typical Patriots fashion, Ninkovich delivered answers that centered around his health, future, and older players he has seen. The 33-year-old played five straight full seasons before last year when he was suspended for the first four games. His play on the field showed no signs of slump, but NFL hits take their toll on every player eventually. There is no such thing as a pre-mature retirement.
The Patriots picked up Ninkovich in 2009 after stints with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. After three seasons with those two teams, Ninkovich signed with the Pats and added to the list of salvaged careers in New England. His retirement spot gives Kony Ealy an opportunity to follow a similar career path. Ealy was drafted by the Carolina Panthers`in the second round of the 2014 draft, but was flipped to the Patriots in March.
Ninkovich’s versatility to play both linebacker and defensive end was a crucial element in the Pats success in recent years. The pressure he brought onto quarterbacks every game was consistently disruptive. Ninkovich led the team in sacks twice, but also excelled at defending the run and dropping into coverage.
Ninkovich finishes his career tied for fifth on the New England Patriots sack rankings. His 46 takedowns fall behind leaders Andre Tippett (100), Willie McGinest (76), Chris Slade (51), and Mike Vrabel (48). Since 2010, Ninkovich is one of two players in NFL with 400-plus tackles and 40-plus sacks, per NFL Research. He racked up 420 tackles and 45.0 sacks in that time while the other defender, Calais Campbell has 425 tackles and 49.5 sacks since then.
This is the perfect time for Rob Ninkovich to retire from the NFL. The last game he played was the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and the Super Bowl he won before that ended with an interception at the goal line. Although he could still play a few good seasons, his prime is over and the extra work isn’t worth taking years off his life. Excellent career, Rob Ninkovich.