Ninkovich expected to announce retirement from football after 11 seasons

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Ninkovich expected to announce retirement from football after 11 seasons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots aren't strangers to surprising roster moves during training camp. Releases. Trades. Those sorts of things. But oftentimes those moves are team decisions.

This time there's a player choosing to go out on his terms. 

Rob Ninkovich is expected to announce that he is retiring from football after 11 years in the NFL, including eight with the Patriots, according to multiple reports. The 33-year-old has won two Super Bowls during his time in New England and racked up 46 career sacks under Bill Belichick. 

The team is scheduled to hold a press conference at Gillette Stadium at 12:15 pm on Sunday. The assumption is that will be when Ninkovich makes his announcement.

Ninkovich has been one of many underdog stories to come through Gillette Stadium and find long-term success, though his history of ups, downs and nearly-outs in the league are unique. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Saints in 2006 suffered a season-ending knee injury and was waived in 2007. He spent time with the Dolphins in 2007 and 2008 -- both on the roster and the practice squad -- made his way back to the Saints late in the 2008 season, tried some long-snapping, and was released again the following summer. 

Ninkovich was picked up by the Patriots in August of 2009, beginning a marriage that would carry him through the rest of his career. Ninkovich was incredibly durable, playing in all but one game during a seven-year span. Between 2011 and 2015, he did not miss a start. He served a four-game suspension to start last season after violating the performance-enhancing drug policy but started 14 of the 15 games in which he played, including postseason contests. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick dubbed Rob Ninkovich "Jet killer" in 2012 after a half-sack, forced-fumble, fumble-recovery performance in 2012, but perhaps the defining play of Ninkovich's time in New England was a sack of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX.

In a third-and-seven situation with 12:55 remaining, Ninkovich looped around teammates Chris Jones and Chandler Jones, found an opening and smothered Wilson as the Seahawks tried to go down the field. That forced a punt with the Patriots down 10 points, and helped spark the Patriots to their dramatic comeback victory.

The play was crucial but has flown under the radar in franchise lore. Not unlike the player who authored it.

Goodell statement calls Trump's comments 'divisive'

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Goodell statement calls Trump's comments 'divisive'

In separate statements Saturday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith each criticized President Donald Trump's verbal attack on NFL players. 

Goodell's statement: 

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.  Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

 

And Smith's statement: 

Whether or not Roger or the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen. This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks. 

At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Trump said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he encouraged NFL fans to walk out of games in protest. 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump told the rally. 

He also lamented that football has become less violent.

“They’re ruining the game,” he complained.

McCourty tweets criticism of Trump's shot at NFL players

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McCourty tweets criticism of Trump's shot at NFL players

Patriots safety Devin McCourty tweeted criticism of President Donald Trump's harsh words toward NFL players who have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

McCourty shares a Twitter account with his twin brother Jason of the Cleveland Browns but put his DMac signature on this tweet. Devin McCourty was one of several Pats who didn't go to the White House this past spring to celebrate the team's Super Bowl championship with Trump. 

At a rally in Alabama on Friday night, Trump said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. And he encouraged NFL fans to walk out of games in protest. 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ’Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump told the rally to loud applause.

McCourty and then-teammate Martellus Bennett raised clenched fists in protest after the anthem at the Patriots opening game last season and McCourty said he received plenty of criticism for it. 

“I got a lot of [backlash],” McCourty told CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran last year in the days following that protest. "You gotta remember, a lot of these people, they don’t know me. They like the way I play football and they like some of the things I do in the community but they don’t know me. I talked to my brother [then with the Tennessee Titans] because we have the same Twitter and the Titans got a bunch of calls from people saying they don’t respect [the Titans who made symbolic gestures] and they need to be gone. He said their community relations people said, ‘If you just knew them, your opinion would change.’ ”

Several NFL players and other athletes, most prominently former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police.