Winslow Townson/Associated Press
Rob Ninkovich’s 11-year NFL career reportedly will come to an end Sunday, as the New England Patriots linebacker is expected to announce his retirement at the age of 33 during a press conference scheduled for 12:15 p.m. ET, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
There had been growing speculation about Ninkovich’s future. He skipped New England’s first three practices this offseason, including Saturday’s first day in full pads.
Ninkovich addressed his situation July 19, though he didn’t offer a definitive take.
“When I was younger, you see a guy who’s my age or older and you’re like, ‘Jeez, that’s so and so? The Pro Bowler?’ It’s kind of one of those. It’s sad. … You have to monitor yourself and make sure you don’t get to that point. … I still feel really good. That’s the one key,” Ninkovich said, per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.
Ninkovich led the Patriots in sacks twice (2012, 2014) and was a versatile defender, shifting between end and linebacker.
In 2011, Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus named Ninkovich as New England’s secret superstar because of his ability to do everything on defense.
“As the Patriots evolved, so did Ninkovich, and he continued his stellar play all the way to the Super Bowl,” Stockwell wrote. “He’s doing a job that often takes three roster spots to fill, and in a league that embraces specialists—whether pass-rushers, nickel cornerbacks or slot receivers—Ninkovich’s value has been as a jack-of-all-trades.”
Ninkovich’s retirement came as a surprise because his performance hadn’t dropped off and he was under contract through 2017 after he signed an extension before Week 1 last season.
In 2016, he was suspended four games after he tested positive for a banned substance.
After returning in Week 5, Ninkovich helped the Patriots win the AFC East for the eighth straight season and claim their fifth Super Bowl title when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
Ninkovich also won Super Bowl XLIX with the Patriots. He started out as a nondescript fifth-round pick out of Purdue in 2006.