Rob Ninkovich let down the New England Patriots when he was suspended the first four games of the 2016 season. So how did he fare the rest of the way?
The New England Patriots needed defensive end Rob Ninkovich more in 2016 than other seasons after trading away Chandler Jones. But Ninkovich was dealt a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance just prior to Week 1.
Ninkovich was coming off a 6.5-sack campaign in 2015 when he also registered a career-high seven pass deflections. He proceeded to tear his triceps during the following training camp yet was still looking forward to another productive year. Then came the suspension and disappointment.
At the time, this is what Ninkovich told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss:
"“Few things are more important to me than my name and reputation. This might call that into question for some, which has me heartbroken. I don’t want to cut any corners. I want to do things the right way, with high integrity, and that’s what I have always wanted to stand for.”"
Ninkovich tried his best to make up for lost time when he returned to action. However, he did not register his first sack of 2016 until Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks. He also notched a season-high six tackles versus Seattle and went on to tally one sack in three of the next four games.
In the playoffs, Ninkovich started things off with one sack and two tackles against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He then totaled four tackles the rest of the way, including two in New England’s Super Bowl victory. During the team’s previous Super Bowl run two years earlier, Ninkovich had 15 tackles in three postseason games.
There’s no doubt that Ninkovich’s performance overall in 2016 was disappointing. While Tom Brady also missed the first four games due a suspension, he came back with a vengeance. The same cannot be said of Ninkovich.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they had other young pass rushers like Trey Flowers who stepped up. Ninkovich could be playing his final season in New England this year. But at least he has the opportunity to play better and contribute more in 2017.