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NINKOVICH CHANGED FROM OUTSIDE LINEBACKER TO DEFENSIVE END
Thu, 23 Aug 2012 02:30 AM EDT

When he was an outside linebacker, Rob Ninkovich could spend some more time covering receivers. He even intercepted two passes in 2 different games.

He’d wish to get sacks, and he’s got a better chance now the Patriots have shifted him to his college position of defensive end.

Still, he remembers obviously one of those 2-interception games, on Oct. 4, 2010, in Miami when the New England Patriots beat the Dolphins 41-14.

”Two picks are a game changer, obviously,” he announced before reminding a questioner of what else he accomplished in that game.

”I think I had 2 picks and a sack, so, the more that you can do right …”

Exactly how Coach Bill Belichick feels.

No matter what position appears next to his players’ names on the depth chart, he wants them to do their roles as well as possible.

”Rob’s always played at the end of the line of scrimmage so that’s still where he plays,” Belichick recounted. ”Some things he’s doing this year he’s done during the past, maybe in different frequencies or percentages, but he’s still fundamentally an end-of-the-line player.”

Playing defensive end, though, decreases Ninkovich’s pass coverage responsibilities. He can focus more on trying to tackle the QB, one of the Patriots’ deficiencies last season.

”Not too much (thinking) in that position,” he revealed. ”You’ve got to do some things, obviously, but the more things that you can do, the more flexible you are for the team, is just going to help the entire team out.”

Ninkovich failed to help his teams out much in his first 3 pro seasons.

New Orleans drafted him in 2006 out of Purdue but he played in just 3 games as a rookie with 2 tackles. He was claimed on waivers by Miami on Sept. 7, 2007, but he got into only 4 games with the Dolphins that season. His total tackles? Zero.

He played in one game the following season, again without a tackle, before going on Miami’s practice squad. New Orleans then re-signed him but he was waived on July 30, 2009, before playing a single down for the New Orleans Saints.

That’s when the New England Patriots (No. 2 in the AP Pro32) stepped in, signing him just 3 days later, a move that revived his career when he was shifted to LB. Las Vegas odds

”In college, (defensive end) was my position. That’s all I played,” Ninkovich claimed. ”My 1st two years in the NFL I was only a defensive end. I came here and learned the best way to play outside linebacker. So I am just adding to the bag of tricks now.”

In 2009, Ninkovich appeared in 15 games for the Patriots as a backup and special team’s player. His discovery came in 2010 when he started 10 of the 16 games he played and had 58 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. Last season he started all 16 games with career highs of 62 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, 2 interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 2 more fumble recoveries. He also started New England’s 3 postseason games.


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