FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who has been absent from training camp for what coach Bill Belichick described as personal reasons, announced his NFL retirement Sunday afternoon.
“You have to be honest with yourself,” Ninkovich said at an early afternoon news conference that was attended by owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Belichick and about 30 players, including quarterback Tom Brady. “I knew that my time was probably close, and just training made it clear for me. When you go squat and are sore for a week, it’s not a good thing.”
Ninkovich, 33, has been considering retirement in recent seasons. He entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. A Purdue alum, Ninkovich didn’t see his NFL career take off until he joined the Patriots as a free agent on Aug. 2, 2009.
He played in 123 regular-season games (101 starts) in New England from 2009 to 2016 and appeared in 17 playoff games (16 starts). He was a team captain in 2013 and 2015 and part of two Super Bowl championship teams.
Ninkovich was credited with 423 tackles and 46 sacks with the Patriots, as his steadiness and ability to set the edge in the running game was particularly valuable to the club. Wearing No. 50, he reminded some of former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was a key contributor on three Super Bowl-winning teams.
Belichick opened the news conference by calling Ninkovich “a special guy” and among the most unselfish players he has…
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