FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Veteran LB Rob Ninkovich announced his retirement today. A two-time co-captain, Ninkovich spent the last eight seasons with the Patriots and was a part of two Super Bowl Championship teams.
Ninkovich, 33, originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 out of Purdue. His journey to the Patriots was not easy. He was waived four times and split his time with the Saints and Miami Dolphins from 2006 to 2008 and saw action in just eight NFL games. Ninkovich spent the 2009 offseason trying to make the New Orleans team as a long snapper. He joined the Patriots on Aug. 2, 2009, and after playing mainly on special teams in 2009, he became a regular in the starting lineup, seeing action as a defensive lineman and a linebacker. Ninkovich started all 16 games for five straight seasons from 2011 through 2015. He became the first Patriots player since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett to record at least eight sacks in three straight seasons (2012-14). Ninkovich’s 14 fumble recoveries since 2010 are the most in the NFL over that span. His best statistical season was in 2013 when he started all 16 games and registered a career-high 93 total tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Overall, Ninkovich played in 131 NFL games with 101 starts and recorded 425 total tackles, 46 sacks, five interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown, 22 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries and 28 special teams tackles. In addition, he played in 17 postseason games with 16 starts and finished with 64 total tackles, six sacks, one interception, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
In a testament to his versatility of moving between a defensive end and linebacker, Ninkovich was originally recruited to Purdue as a tight end. He caught a 1-yard touchdown pass former NFL QB Curtis Painter in a win against Illinois and a 2-yard touchdown pass from QB Kyle Orton.