Ninkovich not bothered by roster battles

591716.jpg

Ninkovich not bothered by roster battles

FOXBORO -- Every NFL roster is packing extra muscle this season. In April, the league upped offseason team membership from 80 to 90 players, increasing competition across the board.

The Patriots have 14 defensive linemen and 13 linebackers right now.

That includes an addition of three draft picks, four rookie or first-year free agents, and four veteran free agents to the front seven. First round picks Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones could be called on immediately for pass rush help.

Great. Don't color Rob Ninkovich worried.

"It really doesn't hurt me at all," he said of New England bulking up. "I've been through a lot in my NFL career so it really doesn't affect me as far as guys coming in. I look it as a plus -- the team's going to be better. And if you have any type of injury or something, you have guys coming in who are all good, all fresh, all talented. It helps the team out, so I'm excited.

"The more guys you have, as far as personnel, it's always going to help you as far as options and things you're going to do with defensive scheme."

Ninkovich doesn't generally blow smoke. And he deserves some confidence.

Since arriving in New England as a lukewarm linebacking body in 2009, he's worked his way to be a staple of the Patriots defense.

Games started in Patriots Year One: 0. Games started in Year Three: 16.

Unsurprisingly, Ninkovich remains hungry. He's consistent in saying he's never cared for praise or accolades; it's personal ambition that drives him, that's motivated him to work through injury and practice squad obscurity during the early part of his career.

The plan for 2012 is to continue the steady climb, regardless of how many guys the Patriots brought in to nip at his heels.

He knows how to battle.

"Going into this year I really want to be more overall improved on coverage. Also get more pressure on the quarterback. I feel every year is kind of a step -- get a little bit better, get a little bit better -- and it also comes with experience."

"Last year helped me out with all the experience I had and all the game-time plays and situations things you go through in a whole season. It was a good year for me and now I just want to build on that and continue to do well out there."

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.”