Ninkovich open to helping out young Patriots pass-rushers: 'They're like my brothers'

Ninkovich open to helping out young Patriots pass-rushers: 'They're like my brothers'

FOXBORO -- As players filed out of the Gillette Stadium media workroom following Rob Ninkovich's retirement press conference, the man of the hour stopped rookie defensive ends Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers for hugs.

As Ninkovich embraced Wise he said, "I'll be here. Just let me know, all right?"

By the sounds of things, though Ninkovich is retiring, he hasn't given up on the idea of hanging around the Patriots to help younger edge-defenders and linebackers.

"There’s certainly a degree of sadness in the way that we’ll miss him," Bill Belichick said in his opening remarks at Ninkovich's presser, "although he’ll be around and be part of the team."

Ninkovich acknowledged that he was hoping to return to the occasional practice to work with players one-on-one. He still has a passion for the game, particularly in a teaching role. He's spoken openly about his desire to pass on lessons he learned as a young player, and his younger teammates say they have already reaped the benefits even in a short period of time with the 33-year-old.

"He's been tremendous, man," Wise said. "Ever since my first day here, he's been talking to me about little things, whether it was about recovery, the ice tub after practice, stretching, how to do weight room stuff. He's kinda been like an older brother in a sense in the locker room.

"His presence is great. On the field, he'll tell me small things, how to turn my hands to get more extension, little small steps when I'm going down the line instead of big, long steps. He's been great. Everything he's taught me I will remember."

"Rob, he helps me out. He's a teacher," Rivers said last week. "He's a helper. He loves to help and serve younger guys . . . Rob always, as soon as he's done with his rep, he comes around and talks to us when we're not taking one."

Wise and Rivers make up a portion of what is now one of the youngest position groups on the team. The longest-tenured Patriots on the edge are Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom, both of whom are in their third seasons with the team. Newcomer Kony Ealy will compete for time as well, and linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin all have experience coming off of the edge. Grissom has taken the majority of the reps opposite Flowers as one half of the team's top edge pairing.

"I'm really excited to see these guys this year," Ninkovich said. "I think this group is a really young, really athletic, really talented group. And the Patriots organization, it's like a freight train. It's rolling and it doesn't stop. It's going to keep going. This team, the way they prepare, the way they practice, we see it every day, how hard they work. And that's the separation in this league is the preparation and the time they put in, how hard they work. and that's what helps make us successful.

"These young guys, I think they have a bright future and I'm not going anywhere so I'm going to help those guys out. They're like my brothers so I'm going to do the best that I can even though I can't go out there and play. But I'm going to help them as much as I can, give them anything that I know with the knowledge that I have."

Don't expect Ninkovich to be donning Patriots sweats and spending late nights at the team facility away from his family this season. That doesn't seem to be in the cards. But what he has in mind sounds like more of an occasional consulting role. He kicked around the idea of teaching high school and college players at some point on a podcast with The MMQB's Albert Breer, but don't expect to see him grinding like a typical NFL assistant.

"That would seem to me like he wouldn't go into coaching right away, but it is a very interesting transition when you leave the game," said Ninkovich's former teammate and friend Matt Light. "I'm sure that he's gonna wrestle with the idea of a lot of different things and what he wants to do.

"Football would be an easy thing for him to do if he wanted to do it, just because he has a mature love for the game, and he's the kind of guy who enjoys coaching. He was a coach when he played with the guys around him, just being a great sounding board for those guys. Whatever Rob does he's gonna be great at it, and he's gonna have fun doing it. And I'm sure he'll get into a medley of things."

Whether Ninkovich is spending time with his family, traveling or doing some media work with his free time, it sounds like football -- and time with young Patriots pass-rushers in particular -- will make up some portion of the equation. He knows he has a lot to offer.

"Just maybe a tackle set or the way the guard's eyes are on a tackle," Ninkovich said, "or the tight end depth, the back set, what's the formation, all those things that you have to learn becomes kind of second nature. The quicker you can kind of anticipate plays, just by looking at what the offense is giving you, you're going to be better off to succeed in that particular play. I'm definitely going to help out and do the best that I can with the guys that are here."

INTERCONFERENCE: Rodgers burns Bengals deep in OT, Packers win, 27-24


INTERCONFERENCE: Rodgers burns Bengals deep in OT, Packers win, 27-24

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Aaron Rodgers burned another defense deep with a free play. The Cincinnati Bengals found their offense and a new way to lose.

Mason Crosby kicked a 27-yard field goal with 6:26 left in overtime set up by Rodgers' 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison, and the Green Bay Packers rallied to beat Cincinnati 27-24 on Sunday.

Crosby's kick completed the Packers' comeback from a 21-7 halftime deficit.

On third-and-10 from his 21, Rodgers took advantage of yet another free play after defensive end Michael Johnson was whistled for offside. Officials let the play continue and the two-time NFL MVP found Allison on about a 40-yard pass before the receiver beat a couple defenders for more yards.

"Luckily I put it in a good spot and G-Mo did the rest," Rodgers said.

Crosby, a veteran kicker, finished it off for the Packers (2-1).

The winless Bengals (0-3) won the toss in overtime but went three-and-out on their opening drive. It was so loud at Lambeau Field that they had to call timeout before their first overtime snap.

Rodgers thrived under the pressure.

He connected with Jordy Nelson for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 24. Cornerback Dre Kilpatrick narrowly missed batting away the bullet thrown by the quarterback into the front right corner of the end zone.

"We rushed the quarterback, keeping him in. We did a lot, but when we broke down, (Rodgers) made plays," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Rodgers finished 28 of 42 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Allison had six catches for 122 yards.

"I thought Aaron played one of his best games," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought he was tremendous today."

The Packers flipped the script after the Bengals controlled the first half.

A.J. Green caught a 10-yard scoring pass on the game's opening drive for Cincinnati's first touchdown after two frustrating weeks for the offense. Bill Lazor made his debut as offensive coordinator for the fired Ken Zampese.

Andy Dalton was 21 of 27 for 212 yards and two scores. The Bengals were desperate to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2008. But they couldn't finish the Packers off in the second half.

"A disappointment is not finishing a football game now," Lewis said.

Green Bay's defense generated a little more pressure on Dalton in the second half, and rookie safety Josh Jones gave the injury-laden defense a boost with two sacks and 12 tackles.

Rodgers shook off his early struggles to guide the Packers to another win. He was sacked six times, mostly against just the Bengals' four-man rush, though the protection shored up after halftime.

Rodgers threw just his second career pick-six - and his first at home - when William Jackson returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown for a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.

"Oh, we took a step as a football team," McCarthy said. "This always pays forward when you go through adversity and you have success."


INTERCONFERENCE: Titans score 21 straight points in 3rd, beat Seahawks, 33-27


INTERCONFERENCE: Titans score 21 straight points in 3rd, beat Seahawks, 33-27

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Marcus Mariota threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tennessee Titans scored 21 straight points in rallying to beat the Seattle Seahawks 33-27 Sunday.

Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 115 yards, including a 75-yard TD run . Ryan Succop also kicked four field goals as Tennessee (2-1) scored at least 30 points for a second straight week.

The Seahawks (1-2) finally scored a bunch of touchdowns with Russell Wilson throwing for 373 yards and four TDs. His second TD, a 10-yarder to Chris Carson , put Seattle up 14-9 in the third quarter.

Then the Titans took control with Mariota answering with TDs on the next two drives for Tennessee.

Mariota tossed a screen to Rishard Matthews, who ran 55 yards to the end zone for a 16-14 lead midway through the third. Matthews and tight end Jonnu Smith celebrated taking pretend selfies in the end zone.

On the next possession, Mariota found a wide-open Jonnu Smith for a 24-yard TD and a 23-14 lead.

Murray's TD gave Tennessee a 30-14 lead late in the quarter, and Tennessee finished with 195 yards rushing.

Wilson pulled Seattle within 33-27 with his fourth TD, an 8-yarder to Paul Richardson with 1:50 left. But Titans tight end Delanie Walker recovered Seattle's onside kick.

The Seahawks had one last chance with the Titans lined up to punt on fourth-and-3 with 11 seconds left. Then officials flagged the Seahawks for 12 men in the formation, giving Tennessee the clinching first down.

Both teams chose not to take the field for the national anthem on a day of protests around the NFL. Meghan Linsey, a runner-up in "The Voice," took a knee when she finished singing.

Then Wilson locked arms with center Justin Britt, followed by his teammates as the Seahawks walked onto the field. In the other corner, Mariota locked arms with Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker and linebacker Wesley Woodyard, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and linebacker Brian Orakpo as the Titans walked out.