Ninkovich says his body wasn't responding to training: 'I was honest with myself'

Ninkovich says his body wasn't responding to training: 'I was honest with myself'

FOXBORO -- Rob Ninkovich was never one to openly complain about the rigors of an NFL training camp. When younger players did, he told them they never knew when their last would be. That's why it came as no surprise when less than two weeks ago, inside a Boston hotel, Ninkovich seemed to be looking forward to his team's upcoming camp. Parts of it, at least. The one-on-one pass-rush drills still got him going. 

But as he trained, as he prepared his body for a 12th season, it was telling him it had had enough. 

"Usually there's a progression of, OK, you're working up toward the season, you get to the season, your body's getting broken down," Ninkovich said. "Then after the season you try to heal a little bit and you try to build back up for another year. When you're trying to build back up when you're younger, I feel like you can build back up, and OK, you feel OK. And for me, I was trying to build back up, and I just felt I wasn't where I needed to be to be what I am and what I feel like I should be for my teammates and fans and everyone who loves me as a football player.

"I was honest with myself. You have to be honest with yourself. I feel like athletes unfortunately sometimes they get away from that because they don't want to believe what their [bodies] are telling themselves. I knew that my time was probably close. Training kind of made it clear for me . . . When you go squat and you're sore for a week, it's not a good thing."

Ninkovich announced his retirement during a press conference on Sunday that was attended by a multitude of Patriots players and coaches, many of whom were sitting on the ground or on tables in the media work room in order to squeeze as many bodies as possible inside to show support.

The decision to stop was not made in haste, Ninkovich explained. And he waited until the start of camp to make his announcement in order to be sure it was final.

"I wanted to make sure I made the right choice," Ninkovich said. "That was talking with my family, and looking at the pros and cons. And coming in as a guy that had been cut a bunch, I've had injuries, I've had knee injuries that were close to being career-ending . . . It's lasted me 11 years so I'm happy I've had that durability there. There's a time where that durability doesn't last as long. I'm just happy that I was able to play for this organization as long as I have."

With the Patriots, Ninkovich started all 16 games for five straight seasons (2011-15), and he made 101 total starts between 2010 and 2016. He recorded 46 career sacks, forced 12 fumbles and recovered 14 others. 

Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo


Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 


According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 


Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.