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Robert Michael Ninkovich (born February 1, 1984) is a former American football outside linebacker who played eleven seasons in National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Purdue as a defensive end and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He also played for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, winning two Super Bowls with the latter. After eight seasons with the Patriots, Ninkovich announced his retirement from the NFL following 2016.

Rob Ninkovich
refer to caption
Ninkovich with the Patriots in 2011
No. 50, 93
Position:Outside linebacker
Defensive end
Personal information
Born: (1984-02-01) February 1, 1984 (age 35)
Blue Island, Illinois
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:260 lb (118 kg)
Career information
High school:New Lenox (IL) Lincoln-Way Central
College:Purdue
NFL Draft:2006 / Round: 5 / Pick: 135
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Total tackles:460
Sacks:46.0
Interceptions:5
Forced fumbles:10
Fumble recoveries:14
Touchdowns:2[1]
Player stats at NFL.com

Early yearsEdit

Rob Ninkovich was born in Blue Island, Illinois to a family of Croatian origin.[2][3][4] Following seventh grade, Rob's family relocated to New Lenox, Illinois. He attended Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort his freshman and sophomore year then attended Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox his junior and senior years. There, he played defensive end, tight end, and fullback.[5] Ninkovich earned All-State honors for defensive end during his senior year. He also lettered in baseball.[5]

College careerEdit

Joliet Junior CollegeEdit

Following high school, Ninkovich spent two years at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois.[5] As a freshman, he recorded 36 tackles and seven sacks as his team won the NJCAA national championship.[6]

During the summer prior to his sophomore year, Ninkovich worked with his father, an ironworker, hanging beams on a Chicago construction site 19 stories high.[5] According to his father, the purpose was to give Rob extra incentive to complete his college education.[5]

As a sophomore at Joliet in 2003, Ninkovich earned third-team NJCAA All-America honors after recording 95 tackles (68 solo), five forced fumbles, four fumbles recovered, and a school-record 16 sacks.[6]

Purdue UniversityEdit

Ninkovich transferred to Purdue in 2004 and played in all 12 games that season.[6] Despite being a reserve, Ninkovich was tied for the team lead and ranked second in the Big Ten with eight sacks.[6] In an October 2 contest against Notre Dame, Ninkovich recorded two sacks on defense and also caught a goal-line touchdown pass from Kyle Orton.[6] Against Indiana on November 20, he tied a school record with four sacks.[6]

As a senior in 2005, Ninkovich earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after recording 48 tackles, eight sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.[6] He recorded four sacks against Indiana for the second straight season, giving him two of the three individual four-sack performances in school history.[6] In a 37–3 victory over Illinois, he caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Curtis Painter.[6] Following the season, he was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game.[7]

Professional careerEdit

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 3 in
(1.91 m)
260 lb
(118 kg)
31 14 in
(0.79 m)
10 in
(0.25 m)
4.93 s 1.69 s 2.86 s 4.18 s 6.96 s 34 12 in
(0.88 m)
9 ft 8 in
(2.95 m)
23 reps
All values from NFL Combine[8][7]

The New Orleans Saints selected Ninkovich in the fifth round (135th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.[5][9]

New Orleans SaintsEdit

On July 18, 2006, the New Orleans Saints signed Ninkovich to a three-year, $1.22 million contract.[7]

2006Edit

Throughout training camp, Ninkovich competed against Charles Grant, Willie Whitehead, and Eric Moore for the job as the starting defensive end.

On August 21, 2006, the New Orleans Saints lost, 30–7, to the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game. During the game, Ninkovich recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles but was also flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty which led to a Cowboys' touchdown.[7] He finished the preseason with three sacks. Head coach Sean Payton named Ninkovich the backup defensive end to Will Smith and Charles Grant to begin the regular season.[5]

He made his professional regular-season debut during the Saints' season-opener at the Cleveland Browns and recorded three combined tackles during their 19–14 victory.[10] On September 25, 2006, Ninkovich suffered a torn MC ligament in his knee while appearing on special teams during the Saints 23–3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.[11] On September 29, 2006, the Saints placed Ninkovich on season-ending injured reserve after he underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament.[7][5] Ninkovich finished his rookie season with four combined tackles (two solo) and a pass deflection in three games.[12]

2007Edit

Ninkovich saw stiff competition[citation needed] throughout training camp, competing with Josh Cooper, Anton Palepoi, Jonathan Hamm, and Willie Evans.[13]

During an afternoon practice on July 30, 2007, Ninkovich was carted off the field with a knee injury.[7] On September 6, 2007, he was waived by the New Orleans Saints as a part of their final roster cuts.[14]

Miami DolphinsEdit

On September 7, 2007, the Miami Dolphins claimed Ninkovich off of waivers. Head coach Cam Cameron named him the backup defensive end to Jason Taylor and Matt Roth.[15]

On September 16, 2007, Ninkovich made his Miami Dolphins' debut during their 37–20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.[16] He was inactive for four games (Weeks 4–7) and would go on to play sparingly throughout the season. He was inactive for seven more games in 2007 (Weeks 10–13 and Weeks 14–17). He finished the 2007 season with two combined tackles in four games.[5][17]

2008Edit

Head coach Cam Cameron was fired after a 1–15 season in 2007. The Miami Dolphins hired Tony Sparano as their new head coach and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni opted to switch the Dolphins' base defense from a 4–3 defense to a 3-4. Ninkovich moved to outside linebacker due to the change. Throughout training camp, he competed against Charlie Anderson, Kelly Poppinga, Quentin Moses, Titus Brown, and Keith Saunders for the role of backup outside linebacker.[18]

He tied Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks with a team-high two sacks during the 2008 preseason.[19] On August 31, 2008, the Dolphins released Ninkovich. On September 3, 2008, he was signed to the Dolphins' practice squad after clearing waivers.[20][21]

On November 15, 2008, Ninkovich was promoted to the active roster.[22] He played against the Oakland Raiders in a reserve role on November 16 but did not record any tackles.[23]

On November 20, 2008, he was released to make room for linebacker Erik Walden. Ninkovich was re-signed to the practice squad the following day. He finished the 2008 season without any tackles and appeared in only one game.[24]

Return to New Orleans SaintsEdit

On December 3, 2008, the New Orleans Saints signed Ninkovich off the Dolphins' practice squad. He was released on July 30, 2009 after the Saints signed long snapper Jason Kyle. Ninkovich had previously been considered as a long snapping option for the Saints in the offseason.[25]

New England PatriotsEdit

2009Edit

On August 2, 2009, the New England Patriots signed Ninkovich to a one-year, $535,000 contract.[26]

He made the Patriots' 53-man roster and recorded his first NFL sack in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos. He received a contract extension through the 2011 season on November 6, 2009.[27] Overall, he played in 15 games for the Patriots in 2009, finishing with 23 tackles and one sack.[28]

2010Edit

Ninkovich began the 2010 season as a starter at outside linebacker. In the team's Week 4 game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, Ninkovich recorded his first career interception, and later in the game added another interception and a sack.[29] He finished the season with a career-high 62 tackles, four sacks, and two interceptions in 16 games played (10 starts).[30]

2011Edit

During the 2011 NFL season, Ninkovich recorded his first NFL touchdown when he intercepted a pass from New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and returned it 12 yards for the touchdown. He also had another interception earlier in the same game when he caught a pass tipped by Jerod Mayo.[31] Ninkovich had the best statistical season of his career, recording 74 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 1 forced fumble, and 3 recovered fumbles while starting all 16 regular-season games.[32] During the Patriots' 2011–2012 playoff run, Ninkovich recorded 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for a loss, and 2 quarterback hits against the Broncos during the Divisional Playoff game. Ninkovich also recorded seven tackles against the Ravens during the second round Conference Championship Game. On February 5, 2012, Ninkovich played in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, but the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, 21-17.[33] Ninkovich recorded 4 tackles (3 solo), 0.5 sacks, and 2 quarterback hits in the game.

2012 seasonEdit

During the 2012 offseason, Ninkovich moved to defensive end; his replacement at outside linebacker was Patriots rookie Dont'a Hightower. Ninkovich, starting opposite rookie Chandler Jones, led the team with 8 sacks and netted 58 tackles. He also forced 5 fumbles, including 2 in a game against the Denver Broncos and a game-ending overtime strip sack against the Jets.[34][35] In 2012, he started every game, and had 8 sacks, 1 pass defended, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries on 58 tackles.[36]

2013 seasonEdit

In Week 3 of the 2013 season, Ninkovich signed a three-year contract extension, running through 2016, that included $8.5 million in bonuses and guaranteed money and totaled $15 million over its course.[37] In 2013, he started every game, recording 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries on 91 total tackles.[38]

2014Edit

Ninkovich set a single-game career high with three sacks in the Patriots Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills.[39] In Week 8, Ninkovich recovered a Jay Cutler fumble for his second career touchdown.[40] Ninkovich led the Patriots with eight sacks, his third straight year with eight sacks. In the Patriots' 28–24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, Ninkovich sacked Russell Wilson once and recorded six tackles.[41]

2015Edit

Ninkovich started all 16 games for the Patriots in the 2015 season, recording 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks.[42]

2016Edit

Ninkovich tore his triceps in training camp and was expected to miss a few weeks. On September 2, 2016, Ninkovich was suspended for four games after testing positive for a banned substance.[43]

On September 5, 2016, the Patriots signed Ninkovich to a one-year contract extension through the 2017 season.[44]

On February 5, 2017, Ninkovich was part of the Patriots team that won Super Bowl LI. In the game, he had two assisted tackles as the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34–28 in overtime.[45] In a postgame interview with WBZ Sports,[46] Ninkovich claimed the Patriots "broke down" in the locker room at halftime, resolving afterwards to play "one heck of a 30-minute half." The Patriots trailed 28–3 in the third quarter, but rallied all the way back to win the game 34-28 against the Atlanta Falcons. The game was the first to go to overtime, and the Patriots made the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.[47][48][49]

RetirementEdit

On July 30, 2017, Ninkovich announced his retirement from the NFL after eleven seasons, including eight with the Patriots.[50][51]

In July 2019 ESPN announced Ninkovich would be joining the network as an NFL analyst.[52]

Career statisticsEdit

Year Team GP Comb Solo Ast Sck FF FR FR Yds Int Int Yds Avg Lng TDs PDef Stuffs Stuff Yds
2006 NO 3 4 2 2 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2007 MIA 4 2 1 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2009 NE 15 23 14 9 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 1
2010 NE 16 62 45 17 4.0 0 3 63 2 1 1 1 0 4 4 8
2011 NE 16 74 43 31 6.5 1 3 0 2 30 15 18 1 4 2 8
2012 NE 16 58 32 26 8.0 5 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 17
2013 NE 16 91 42 49 8.0 2 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 10
2014 NE 16 62 45 17 8.0 0 1 15 1 11 11 11 0 2 6 11
2015 NE 16 52 33 19 6.5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 4 10
2016 NE 12 32 17 15 4.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Total 131 460 274 186 46.0 10 14 84 5 42 8.4 18 1 23 28 65

[53]

Postseason statistics

Year Team GP Comb Solo Ast Sck FF FR FR Yds Int Int Yds Avg Lng TDs PDef
2010 NE 1 4 2 2 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
2011 NE 3 16 8 8 2.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012 NE 2 12 6 6 2.0 0 0 0 1 6 6 6 0 2
2013 NE 2 3 3 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2014 NE 3 15 8 7 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
2015 NE 2 8 5 3 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016 NE 3 6 2 4 1.0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Total 16 64 34 30 6.0 1 1 0 1 6 6.0 6 0 7

[53]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Rob Ninkovich stats". Pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  2. ^ "11 things we learned from Rob Ninkovich's retirement news conference". boston.com. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  3. ^ "Bill Belichick congratulates 'tough Croatian' Rob Ninkovich on tremendous career". SportingNews.com. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  4. ^ "There is no quit in Patriots' Rob Ninkovich".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "TEAM: Roster Rob Ninkovich Profile". MiamiDolphins.com. Archived from the original on May 1, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Player Bio: Rob Ninkovich". PurdueSports.com. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "KFFL – Rob Ninkovich, DL". KFFL.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  8. ^ "Rob Ninkovich NFL Combine Scores". NFLCombineResults.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "2006 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns - September 10th, 2006". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  11. ^ Len Pasquarelli (September 29, 2006). "Saints lose DE Ninkovich for season to knee injury". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  12. ^ "NFL Player stats: Rob Ninkovich (2006)". NFL.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
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  14. ^ Guregian, Karen. "Ex-Saint Rob Ninkovich finally gets chance". The Boston Herald. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  15. ^ "Miami Dolphins' depth chart: 10/01/2007". Ourlads.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
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  37. ^ Ninkovich on extension: 'Happy to be here'
  38. ^ "Rob Ninkovich 2013 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  39. ^ "New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills - October 12th, 2014". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  40. ^ "Chicago Bears at New England Patriots - October 26th, 2014". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
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  43. ^ Sessler, Marc. "Patriots' Rob Ninkovich facing four-game suspension". NFL.com.
  44. ^ Volin, Ben (September 11, 2016). "Patriots extend Rob Ninkovich's contract". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  45. ^ "Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons - February 5th, 2017". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  46. ^ "Patriots' Rob Ninkovich on Super Bowl LI Victory". boston.cbslocal.com.
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  48. ^ Wesseling, Chris. "New England Patriots win Super Bowl LI". NFL. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  49. ^ Clarke, Liz. "Julian Edelman’s Super Bowl miracle catch gives Patriots answer to David Tyree", The Washington Post, February 6, 2017
  50. ^ Patra, Kevin (July 30, 2017). "Pats linebacker Rob Ninkovich announces retirement". NFL.com.
  51. ^ "Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich Announces His Retirement". Patriots.com. July 30, 2017.
  52. ^ "Report: Mark Sanchez walking away from NFL for ESPN college football analyst job". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  53. ^ a b "Rob Ninkovich". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved January 17, 2014.

External linksEdit