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Rob Ninkovich voice of reason, authority on Patriots defense: ‘You have to get your loudest voice possible’ 08.20.15 at 6:14 am ET
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Rob Ninkovich still remembers his first preseason game, 10 years ago. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich still remembers his first preseason game, 10 years ago. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Entering his seventh season with the Patriots, Rob Ninkovich has learned the value of becoming a strong communicator.

When the word leadership is thrown around in the Patriots defensive meetings, the names Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty come immediately to mind. But with Vince Wilfork gone, there’s a void to be filled and Ninkovich sounds like and talks like he has his eyes set on leading some of the newcomers through their orientation with the Patriots.

“You have to communicate and you have to understand what the communication is. There’s two types of communication. That’s giving it and receiving it,” Ninkovich told WEEI.com. “You have to understand what you’re hearing and acknowledge it, and then go out there and perform. As a young guy, you have to do your best to understand all the communication that goes on out on the field.”

Now, Ninkovich is the leader of an edge pass rushing group that includes Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers. Ninkovich is the clear leader of that group.

“You have to be assertive and you have to get your loudest voice possible to yell at them so they understand what they’re hearing and get their attention,” Ninkovich said. “I’m listening as well so every time someone is saying something I’ve got to listen to it and relay the message to everybody else. That’s what football is all about, having everyone on the same page on that particular play, and every play doing it the same way every play. Again, those young guys are out here just doing their best and learning as we go.”

Ninkovich signed a three-year contract extension in Week 3 of the 2013 season that runs through 2016. Part of the reason Belichick signed Ninkovich was that he could imagine Ninkovich taking over some leadership responsibilities.

Ninkovich’s deal includes $8.5 million in bonuses and guaranteed money and could total $15 million by the time it ends. How has he responded? In 2013, he started every game, recording eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries on 91 total tackles.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich,
Rob Ninkovich excited for Thursday’s preseason opener: ‘Football is meant to be played in full pads going full blast’ 08.12.15 at 5:00 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich still remembers his first preseason game, 10 years ago. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich still remembers his first preseason game, 10 years ago. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Thursday night couldn’t come soon enough for many Patriots players who are looking to finally be able to face a player not on their own team.

The Patriots will host the Packers in the first preseason game for both teams and even in his 10th year in the league, defensive end Rob Ninkovich still gets excited for the first game.

“It’s always fun,” he said this week. “Definitely when you can get out there and start tackling people, getting the flow of the game going against different skill sets of different offensive linemen. It’s always fun to test your techniques on different lineman out there.

“Football is meant to be played in full pads going full blast. Definitely exciting for a lot of guys to get out there and play together.”

It’s likely Ninkovich and most of the other starters receive very limited playing time. The first preseason game is more about the newer and younger players trying to make a name for themselves and earn a spot on the team.

Ninkovich still remembers what his first game was like.

“I am not going to get into scheme and stuff like that — it’s going to be a lot of different guys playing in this game and really just have to play hard,” Ninkovich said. “I can remember my first preseason game, it was a long time ago, but it was definitely a lot different than college. It’s a lot faster. Special teams are a lot quicker. You just have to really adjust and I think that first game is your first time playing in a long time and just trying and get your timing an technique down.”

Looking ahead to games that actually count in the standings, Ninkovich and the Patriots’ pass rush could be even better than it was a year ago with a healthy Chandler Jones and the addition of Jabaal Sheard.

Even with high expectations, Ninkovich is keeping the focus on the now and getting better as an entire defense as training camp and the preseason rolls on.

“I think every year you have a chance, you just have to put in the work coming into practice,” he said of being better than the year before. I think again, you just have to work hard and get better. We still have a long way to go.”

Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, Rob Ninkovich,
Several former Patriots teammates salute Junior Seau on his Hall induction 08.09.15 at 3:19 pm ET
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On the occasion of Junior Seau‘s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a handful of his former Patriots’ teammates took to social media on Saturday to acknowledge Seau and his accomplishment.

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Read More: Chad Brown, Dan Koppen, Junior Seau, Rob Ninkovich
Bill Belichick feels Jabaal Sheard has ‘done well’ adjusting to Patriots’ defensive scheme at 1:00 pm ET
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Jabaal Sheard

Jabaal Sheard

FOXBORO — With the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington in the secondary, the Patriots’ front-seven will be asked to do more than they were asked a year ago.

The group has a good core in linebackers Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and hybrid outside linebackers/defensive ends Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and new-comer Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard was one of the Patriots’ biggest offseason acquisitions, as he signed a two-year deal worth $11 million after spending his first four seasons in the league with the Browns. He battled a foot injury for the final two months of last season, finishing with two sacks, but he did have 8.5, 7 and 5.5 respectively in his first three seasons in the league.

“I don’€™t think there’€™s been a huge amount of surprises with him,” coach Bill Belichick said Saturday. “He’€™s been in the league for four years. Mike [Lombardi] was in Cleveland with him, so we have a pretty good insight here. I would just say the system he played in there — he actually played in a couple of different systems there, and our system is a little bit different, so there’€™s been an adjustment for him there with some of our techniques or assignments. Overall, a lot of things that we do, he’€™s done, so there’€™s been a little bit of an adjustment, but he’€™s done well with that.

“He’€™s a good player. He’€™s long, has good playing strength, pretty instinctive. He’€™s played on the end of the line for his whole career going back to Pitt and in the NFL and now with us. That’€™s pretty much where he’€™s going to play for us.”

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, chandler jones, Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich
With Vince Wilfork gone, Patriots defense looks to likes of Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich to fill leadership void 08.01.15 at 1:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While much of the offseason focus is on how the Patriots’ defense will survive the offseason departure of cornerback Darrelle Revis, from an off-field perspective, the loss of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork looms just as large.

The veteran, who was an absolutely essential part of the Patriots success since he arrived as a first-round pick in 2004, left for the Texans in the offseason. And while it’s one thing to talk about his departure from a purely statistical standpoint, his leadership skills were just as valuable. Now, it will fall to a new generation of defensive players to guide younger players in the same fashion that Wilfork did for the last decade.

Two of the likely candidates to assume more of a leadership role on the defensive side of the ball in 2015 are safety Devin McCourty and defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. McCourty arrived in 2010, while Ninkovich was picked up as a street free agent in 2009, making them two of the senior members of the New England defense. (Linebacker Jerod Mayo is the only one with more service time with the Patriots. having first shown up in 2008.) Both talked this week about facing an increased level of expectations with Wilfork no longer in the locker room.

“The key to being a leader is just being yourself,” McCourty said. “I continue to just do that — be myself. I think obviously, there’s a big hole with Vince being gone, but I think we have good leaders on this team. Obviously there’s myself and Mayo. Guys like (Dont’a) Hightower, Jamie (Collins), Chandler (Jones), Rob (Ninkovich). Those guys have been playing for awhile, along with (Patrick) Chung. So we just have to keep trucking and keep going forward.”

“Vince was obviously a great figure in the organization, and I have tons of respect for him. But the way that the business works, there will always be turnover — you’ll always lose guys. That just happens across the league,” Ninkovich said.

He added: “For us, it’s continuing to do what we’ve done in the past, and that’s coming to work hard every day and setting a good example for the young guys of how to prepare and how to practice and get ready for the football season. For me, it’s not going to be rah-rah, speeches here and there. It’s going to be coming to work every day and doing my job at a high level and leading by example.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork,
Rob Ninkovich remains committed to helping family of former Wellesley High football star 07.31.15 at 1:15 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In his six years with the Patriots, defensive end Rob Ninkovich has managed to put down some pretty deep roots, so it was no surprise to see him become so close with the Perdoni Family of Wellesley. Joe Perdoni, who played football at Georgia Tech, opened Old School Pizzeria in Wellesley in 2011, and it quickly became a Ninkovich favorite.

Following Joe’s death this past May, Ninkovich has maintained close ties with the Perdoni’s. He attended the funeral, and continues to do whatever it takes to help the rest of the Perdoni family — they were Ninkovich’s guests at training camp on Friday.

“I met him about three years ago — a beautiful person who would do anything for anybody,” Ninkovich said of Perdoni, who played football at Wellesley High. “One of those people who is hard to find. A true person who, if you were in a jam, you could call him and he’d be there to help you out. Unfortunately we lost him this year. I’m just doing the best that I can to be there for his family — I know he has two young kids. He was a beautiful person with a big heart and he would give you the shirt off his back.

“Anything I could do to help their family, I will. I know Old School Pizzeria in Wellesley is his business — it’s a great place,” he added. “Their chicken parm is the best around. Anything I could do to help them, I’ll try to do my best.”

To learn more about Perdoni and his family or to help donate, check out this Go Fund Me page.

Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, Rob Ninkovich,
Countdown to camp: Defensive line 07.29.15 at 3:51 pm ET
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How will the Patriots replace Vince Wilfork? (Elsa/Getty Images)

How will the Patriots replace Vince Wilfork? (Elsa/Getty Images)

As training camp approaches, we’€™€™ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the offensive side of the ball and now we’€™ve shifted to defense with the cornerbacks, linebackers and safeties, now we take a look at the defensive line.

Depth chart (regular-season stats via Pro Football Reference): Rob Ninkovich (53 tackles, 8 sacks), Jabaal Sheard (25 tackles, 2 sacks), Chandler Jones (37 tackles, 6 sacks) Dominique Easley (6 tackles, 1 sack), Sealver Siliga (21 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Alan Branch (14 tackles), Jake Bequette, Chris Jones (16 tackles, 3 sacks), Joe Vellano (4 tackles, 1 sack), Zach Moore, Malcom Brown (rookie), Trey Flowers (rookie)

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

1. It’s a different group than a year ago. While they may have lost only one player, it was their leader Vince Wilfork. Without Wilfork it will surely be a different group and they will need someone to step up and take on a leadership role, which will likely be Ninkovich. The team also went out and signed Sheard, who was a free agent after spending last season with the Browns. While they will be without the biggest guy in the middle, the talent is still there to keep up the success.

2. Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard will be good. The Patriots could have one of the best outside pass rush grouping in the entire league with these three. Ninkovich has had eight sacks in three straight seasons, Jones had six in an injury-plagued 2014 season and Sheard will benefit from having the other two players with him. These three rotating in-and-out will likely create matchup problems for opposing defenses and allow the Patriots to get constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks when they choose.

3. They will need to make more of an impact. Last season the secondary was the group which led the defense and this year it will be the front-seven with the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington in the secondary. It will likely be the opposite of things from last year, as this year it will be the front-seven taking some pressure off of the secondary rather than the other way around like last season.

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Read More: Alan Branch, chandler jones, Countdown to Camp, Dominique Easley
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