Patriots

Belichick raves about Ninkovich's leadership, unselfishness

patriots_ninkovich_belichick_073017.jpg

Belichick raves about Ninkovich's leadership, unselfishness

FOXBORO -- There have been a slew of important football players to come through New England and Bill Belichick’s program doing back to 2000, but very few get the star treatment when the end comes. That’s been reserved for the likes of the “Perfect Patriot” Tedy Bruschi, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown and Doug Flutie. Rob Ninkovich joined that select crew Sunday, with the team holding a press conference in front of the media, ownership and just about every coach and player on the current roster. Unique. At times moving, and left no doubt how much the 33-year old impacted his usually irritable head coach.

“Personally, [I] just can’t thank you enough for your contributions to the team [and] to the organization. I haven’t had a – never coached a more unselfish player and I’ve coached a lot of them but you go right up in there in that top echelon group. It was always about the team. It was always about how Rob could help somebody else. ‘What do you need me to do, coach? Do you need me to play here, play there, do something else? I can do this. I’ll snap, I’ll cover kicks, I’ll play linebacker, I’ll rush, I’ll cover. Whatever you need me to do.’

As only he can do, Belichick detailed when the relationship began, back when the Pats prepared for the 2006 draft and they looked at - and bypassed - the Purdue standout.

“He was a little bit of a ‘Was he a linebacker? Was he a defensive end?’ Well it turned out he was both and we missed him the first time around but we finally got it right.” 

After injuries in New Orleans and a 1-15 Dolphins team that didn’t think highly enough of Ninkovich to keep him, this “tweener” ended up back on the Pats radar in 2009. Thank goodness for that.

“We’re sitting there in training camp in 2009 lacking a little depth at the outside linebacker position. Nick [Caserio] said ‘There’s a guy, Rob, he should be on a roster, he should be in a camp and he’s available so let’s get him.’ Really, it’s just history after that. Rob came in and did a great job for us in the kicking game, started playing on defense the following year in 2010, was a regular player for us. [He] had the big game Monday night against Miami – two interceptions, fumble, made a very athletic play, made a great interception and we saw his coverage skill. It kind of just went on from there. Just year after year of production – sacks, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles.”

The encyclopedic Belichick rattled off more numbers - 24 fumbles forced and recovered by the steady Ninkovich - and five interceptions.

“I mean we just go on and on and on,” he said “I mean there are so many big plays he made through the course of his career.”

Impressive for a player who truly had to earn everything he got and then worked his ass off to keep it. That, in Belichick’s mind, put him in another notable group. 

“Like a lot of guys, he came in here very unheralded; [Tom] Brady, Malcolm Butler, guys like that and the guy he replaced, No. 50 Mike Vrabel. [He] didn’t come in with a lot of fanfare but just came in and worked hard and became a very, very versatile player for us. He played defensive end, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, all the kicking game, was our backup snapper…”

“His versatility was really exceptional which is a tribute to his intelligence, his preparation and his overall skill set. Rob’s got very good playing strength. Maybe he got some of that when he was tossing those steel beams around in Chicago with his dad. But [he] worked very hard in the weight room, had very good playing strength, ran well, athletic and, like I said, all day tough and versatile. [He was a] team captain, one of the real leaders of the team. You can see the testament of everybody here what Rob means to all of us and what he’s meant to all of us.”

Belichick then locked eyes with Ninkovich and addressed him personally. 

“You’ve had a tremendous career. You’ve earned every single thing that you’ve gotten. Nobody gave you anything; nobody had worked harder for it. As a coach I’m extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished and you earned every single thing – all those sacks, all those forced fumbles, all those tackles, all those big plays. You got there with hard work and perseverance, dedication, preparation. All the things that we preach for our program, Rob epitomizes. Congratulations on a tremendous career. It’s been an honor to coach you. Thank you for your contributions to the Patriots and to me personally. Thank you.”

In that moment, Belichick spoke not only for himself, but for every Patriot in that room. It was a fitting end to one hell of a run.

Will Britt put 'dependability is more important than ability' adage to the test?

Will Britt put 'dependability is more important than ability' adage to the test?

FOXBORO -- Kenny Britt was among the most impressive Patriots during OTAs. Then, on the first day of minicamp, he pulled up lame. Hamstring. 

At the time, it wasn't considered overly serious, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss. Yet more than two months later, Britt still isn't able to participate fully in Patriots practices. 


On Sunday I asked Britt if he'd had a setback at some point between then and now. He said, "not really," which makes his inability go all-out in practice even more curious. 

“I expected to be out there,” Britt explained. “But my hamstring told me something different.”

He added: “You never know with a hamstring. One day you’ll feel good, and then it's up in the air and popping. And other days, you might feel bad and then get the fastest time you ran out there. So it’s really a feel thing, day in and day out.”

Britt has taken part in individual drills during training camp, and we've seen him work in side sessions with Tom Brady and other veteran pass-catchers. He was on the field for Sunday's workout, though we don't know the extent to which he participated. 

What we do know is that the 29-year-old (Britt turns 30 next month) has yet to participate in the more competitive 11-on-11 fully-padded practice periods, and he hasn't played in either of the team's first two preseason games. 

With every day missed, the memories of Britt's impressive spring fade ever so slightly, and an old Bill Belichick adage seems to become ever more appropriate. "Dependability is more important than ability," Belichick has told reporters on more than one occasion in the past. 

Britt didn't have the benefit of a full offseason with the Patriots when he arrived late last season. This year, after the Patriots picked up their option on his two-year deal, he had the opportunity to be in Foxboro in the weeks and months building up to the fall, but his hamstring got in the way of his progress within the offense. 

“I definitely feel like I’m behind," Britt said, "because I’m not out there with the guys, getting the chemistry that I need with the quarterbacks and just with everybody on the same page with what we do."

There may have to be some complicated calculus involved when assessing Britt's ability to contribute to the Patriots this season, particularly with a few weeks to go before cuts from 90 to 53. 

Helping Britt? Though he hasn't been participating fully this summer, he has been generally dependable over the course of his nine-year career; he's played less than 12 games just once (three in 2011). 

Working against him? His recent availability. The Patriots have done their best to approach Britt's ailment reasonably. Hamstrings, as he noted, can be finicky. It's not something that can be pushed without risking an exacerbation of the injury, and Britt made it sound as though the team has been conscious of having him advance cautiously. 

"I'm doing what they ask me to do," Britt said, "and I'm doing what I can do . . . I'll be out there when I can."

Britt has benefitted by the fact that the receiver position as a whole seems shallow for the Patriots at the moment. They'll be without Julian Edelman for the first four games of the season, and the only real certainty on the roster after that is Chris Hogan.

Britt provides the Patriots with a body type and an ability level that will be hard for them to find elsewhere. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, there are few targets in the league with his frame and athleticism.

Though Britt's spring in New England was a reminder of his rare traits, even he can admit he needs to show his team more with just two preseason games remaining and summer winding down.

“Coming into spring, (was) focused, ready to go out there and prove myself mentally and physically,” he said. “But that was in the spring. I can’t hold onto that. Know what I mean? It is what it is. Right now, I’m just focused on trying to get back out there.”

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Aaron Hernandez's suicide notes revealed

Aaron Hernandez's suicide notes revealed

Aaron Hernandez's suicide letters to his daughter, fiancée, and lawyer were revealed in his lawyer Jose Baez's new book, "Unnecessary Roughness: Inside the Trial and FInal Days of Aaron Hernandez."

Hernandez, a Patriots tight end from 2010 to 2013, hanged himself in his prison cell on April 19, 2017. He was serving life in prison for first-degree murder.

In his letter to his daughter, Avielle Jenkins-Hernandez, he wrote about life being eternal and to never fear him:

“Daddy will never leave you! I’m entering to the timeless realm in which I can enter into any form at any time because everything that could happen or not happened I see all at once! Life is eternal—believe!!!” Hernandez wrote. “Love, repent, and see me/yourself in everyone because that’s what the truth is! I’ll see you all in the heavens awaiting you all with the same love.”

“Never fear me, but love me with all of you! Fear is the only separation between you and I! We are each other—I/you—you/me—there’s no need to fear but what you do unto another will come back around!”

To his fianceé, Shayanna Jenkins:

Shay,

You have always been my soul-mate and I want you to love life and know I’m always with you. I told you what was coming indirectly! I love you so much and know [you] are an angel. We split into two to come change the world! Your characteristic is that of a true angel and the definition of God’s love! Tell my story fully but never think anything besides how much I love you. This was the supreme almightys plan, not mine! I love you! Let Avi know how much I love her! Look after Jano and Eddie for me —they are my boys (You’re Rich).

I KNEW I LOVED YOU = SAVAGE GARDEN

NOT MUCH TIME

I’M BEING CALLED!

JOHN 3:16

I love you all equally! We are all each other! Don’t shed one tear for I am with all of you and never wasn’t! do not go back to living while worshipping false idols in which I warned you about!

IT’S TIME!!!

The Real Live Forever

According to The New York Post, Hernandez included a drawing of a thin rope dangling from a noose on the bottom of the page.

Lastly, to his lawyer Baez:

“Well, I wrote this letter following my acquittal and wanted to voice how I felt and let some people whos[e] music helped me get through hard times, know that it did. Wrong or right — who knows — I just follow my natural instincts and how it guides me. Pros or cons, didn’t weigh them, but I’m sure you’ll let me know your view."

“Besides that, I want you to know you have me forever like you never understood and time will reveal that I’m not perfect but my love and loyalty is like you’ve never seen! I appreciate all your work, time, effort, and never let that slip your mind! In time, you will see how appreciated you are, as well as all the others equally!” he continued.

“I would like to send you letters so you can send to their [the artists] information or whichever way you think best. I don’t want any media really getting into me, trying to just send my love to all the artists who got me through my tough times and sending my respect to a few of the real ones out there."

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