FOXBORO -- Rob Ninkovich hasn't been in this spot in a while. 

As a rookie with the Saints in 2006, he sustained a season-ending knee injury after appearing in three regular-season games. The following summer, a knee injury forced him to miss the preseason, and he was waived. 

He bounced from New Orleans to Miami and back before landing in New England in 2009. But ever since, he's been one of the most durable players in the NFL. 

He played 15 games with the Patriots in his first season with the team, then followed that up with six consecutive seasons where he didn't miss a single regular-season game. He hasn't missed a start since 2011. 

Now that he's dealing with a triceps tear that came in a joint practice with the Saints on Aug. 9, Ninkovich has been forced to sit out of multiple practices for the first time since he was a young player looking to carve a role in the NFL.

He spoke to reporters on Sunday, his first time meeting with members of the media since the injury, and indicated that he was frustrated with having to miss time.

"It's really hard," he said. "I haven't had to deal with anything like this for a long time. Just trying to work as hard as I can, and just trying to work and do the only thing I know how to do. That's try to work hard to get back."


Ninkovich was back on the field less than a week after getting hurt, but he did not participate in any drills or team periods. Because he's been limited to warm-ups and conditioning work with other players dealing with injuries, Ninkovich said that right now he's trying to get as much mental prep work as possible. 

"You watch the tape, you watch practice, you watch the game film and do the best you can to try to absorb what's going on," he said. "[You] put yourself out there. It's just something you have to do."

Ninkovich would not indicate when he thought he would be ready for game action -- "I'm just going to try to take it day by day," he said -- but he did say that he appreciated the competition that was taking place among the team's defensive ends despite the injuries that position has incurred of late. 

Jabaal Sheard and Shea McClellin did not play in Thursday's preseason game with the Bears, although both were seen in the Patriots locker room on Sunday. With Ninkovich out as well, that left the bulk of the first-team snaps to be taken by veteran free-agent signee Chris Long and second-year end Trey Flowers. Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson have also factored in as edge defenders with three of the team's projected top five players at that spot missing time.