Ninkovich finding his game again

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Ninkovich finding his game again

FOXBORO -- After New England lost to Baltimore in Week 3, Rob Ninkovich decided he'd had enough.
And the pressure he sought, despite the Patriots defense playing poorly as a whole, went squarely on his own shoulders.
"I knew I was capable of making some big plays and being a guy you could count on," he said. "The first couple of weeks I didn't feel that I was playing my style, the way I'd like to play. I felt the last couple of weeks I've been trying to change some things."
Ninkovich has 11 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, and two sacks in the two games since.
He played especially inspired football this weekend against Denver.
In the third quarter, New England went up 24-7 when Tom Brady scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
Manning began his team's ensuing drive in shotgun on the Broncos 20. Ninkovich had been setting up early, trying to bullrush and collapse the pocket. He hit gold on first-and-10, sacking Manning for a loss of three and knocking the ball loose with a swipe of his arm.
Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble to set Brady up on the Denver 14.
Three plays later: Patriots touchdown.
Ninkovich had a forced fumble the previous week against Buffalo, but the turnover against Denver felt different. He was starting to string something together.
The linebacker was starting to settle in at defensive end.
"It's just. Sometimes moving to a different position is difficult. I was just trying to make sure I do my job, do the best I could for the team. As a defensive end you can't play the pass on a run situation and play the run in a pass situation. So it's just something that you get a feel for."
Ninkovich signed with the Patriots in 2009 and had a breakout season the following year. He started at outside linebacker then, recording a career-high 62 tackles, four sacks, and two interceptions in 16 games. He continued to improve his game in 2011.
But this year New England has the talent it wants at linebacker and Ninkovich isn't included. Not wanting to take a playmaker off the field, coaches moved him to defensive end.
Okay, then. He's always played toward the end of the line of scrimmage, now they've just taken pass coverage off his plate. Now it's contain, contain, contain. Stop the run. Pressure the quarterback.
All things he did when playing the position in college.
"It's like riding a bike. I'm happy to be back on it," he smiled.
His teammates are happy, too. Not only has Ninkovich's recent reemergence been noticed by his peers, but there's almost some relief attached.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo said it's great to see such a grinder hit pay dirt on game day.
"He's impressive, man," Mayo said Sunday. "He's a guy who goes out there and plays hard each and every week -- even from the preseason on. Just because the big plays don't come doesn't mean he's not out there playing well. I'm really happy for him."
The new goal for Ninkovich is growing his comfort zone and keeping his play elevated.
It shouldn't be too hard. At 6-2, 260, he can look small next to some opposing tackles and tight ends. Thankfully, there's an aspect of being disruptive and causing turnovers that just comes naturally.
"You're not thinking about it everything happens so fast and it's just a part of playing football and learning things you have through your whole life and career. You see a ball -- try and get it out.
"It's all about just playing football."
Playing the way he knows he can.

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”