Three for Thursday:
-- Rob Ninkovich's playing-time numbers are hard to believe, which is probably a good thing. Like a good offensive lineman, Ninkovich's relative invisibility means he's not blowing assignments and giving up plays.
Either way, it's remarkable to consider that the veteran linebacker, who tore a triceps this week at training camp and is doubtful to start the regular season in September, has started 94 consecutive games for the Pats, including the playoffs. In terms of games played, Ninkovich's streak is at 116 straight, going back to the 2009 season. And it's almost impossible to believe the percentage of snaps he's played for the Pats over the previous five years. To wit:
Did it feel to you like he was out there that much? Me neither. In terms of noticeable (i.e., impact, or ``big play'') Patriots defenders, I would put him outside of the top five, at least. Last year, that list included Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. We could argue about guys like Jabaal Sheard and Devin McCourty, too.
But what Ninkovich lacks in flash, he makes up for in consistency and smarts. No way Bill Belichick plays him that much if Ninkovich is just out there taking up space.
In other words, the Pats are going to miss him more than we realize.
-- Well, what do you know: Is that John Farrell doing a little bit of managing the last week? Seems so. I liked the way he had Matt Barnes up in time and ready to go when Criag Kimbrel fell apart in the ninth inning against the Yankees on Tuesday. And his lineup tinkering the next day was a proactive move given the recent struggles of the Sox offense. It seems like Farrell isn't just going to sit back and watch the Sox slide out of playoffs, he's going to do try and do something about it.
Of course, Farrell isn't completely out of the crosshairs, as his handling of David Oritz in Los Angeles over the weekend indirectly led to Steven Wright jamming his shoulder and missing his next scheduled start. Playing Ortiz on Saturday led to a gimpy Ortiz needing to be pinch-run for on Sunday, which led to Wright flopping around on second base in the sixth inning. Now we all have to watch Clay Buchholz pitch on Saturday, which many fans consider a fireable offense in itself.
-- Ominous report from Joe Haggerty regarding where prize rookie free agent Jimmy Vesey is leaning toward signing later this month. It's not Boston, obviously. The Rangers, Devils and Blackhawks are the leaders in the clubhouse according to Haggs.
Don Sweeney and Cam Neely desperately need something to go their way, and this would be a big one. Absent landing the Hobey Baker winner, this offseason feels like another loser. In fact, this offseason might be another loser for the B's whether they get Vesey or not.
Vesey or no Vesey, the B's still haven't addressed their biggest problems. They will return basically the same defense corps from last year, and they've done nothing to take minutes away from the declining Zdeno Chara. They still don't have a viable depth chart at right wing, unless free-agent center David Backes moves over and then he's playing out of position. And they've returned the same coach that led them to the worst record in the NHL down the stretch two years running.
Bottom line, even if the B's land Vesey, I'm not sure how they're going to be any better than last year.
Still, Vesey choosing the Bruins would be a score, something the slumping Sweeney and Neely desperately need.
E-mail Felger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.