Ninkovich: Nothing better than deflating a crowd

Ninkovich: Nothing better than deflating a crowd
November 16, 2013, 2:30 pm
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FOXBORO – With the proliferation of prime-time NFL games, you’d think playing under the lights might lose its unique appeal.
According to Rob Ninkovich, it doesn’t get old.
Saturday afternoon, in a Patriots locker room strewn with travel bags prepped for the team’s trip to Carolina, Ninkovich waxed enthusiastic.
“I love it,” said Ninkovich. “I love Monday night. As a kid, you watch Monday Night Football, you sit down, you see the helmets collide, you got the Monday night song, it’s a great game to play in…”
Patriots center Ryan Wendell, who just happened to be walking by, piped up at that point.
“Rob, you know the Monday night song’s on TV. You don’t actually hear that while you’re playing.”
“Whatever,” said Ninkovich. “I’m saying when you’re a child, when you’re a child, I’m picturing that time in my head. Thank you...”
Hey, the lights of Monday night makes guys get gauzy. Leave him alone. It’s a big deal.
That this game is a big deal for the Panthers – that their five-game rise has been a big deal – is undeniable.
Head coach Ron Rivera, said his team’s win over the Niners last week means regard for the Panthers, “might just change from being relevant to being very relevant.”
It’s been a while since the Patriots themselves have fought for relevance.
Ninkovich said that he’s well-acquainted with teams striving to make a statement against the Patriots, though.
“One thing about playing here that I’ve noticed in five years is we are the team that people want to play to measure themselves and see if they’re relevant,” Ninkovich pointed out. “They’re gonna come out like a lot of teams do and give us their best shot. They’re gonna have a ton of energy in their stadium, their fans are gonna be in it. We need to do a great job of coming out with that same emotion and energy that they have. With us having a little downtime here and a great week of preparation, we feel good.”
It’s a process every team has to go through on its way from average to good to very good. The win over San Francisco was impressive, especially on the road. Monday looms as a night for Panthers fans to lose their minds over their team’s success, though.
Ninkovich and the Patriots plainly relish the chance to send them home miserable.  
“There’s nothing better than being in a stadium and, towards the end, it’s deflated. Atlanta (this season), Pittsburgh a couple years ago (on a Sunday night in 2010) at their place,” he recalled. “The energy Monday night is going to be big.”
And – as opposed to the song – Ninkovich will get the full experience of that energy Monday.