Ninkovich not to be held down


Ninkovich not to be held down

FOXBORO -- Rob Ninkovich has been hurt before.
He appeared in just three games his rookie year, as a member of the Saints in 2006, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Other knee issues have come, slowed him down, and mercifully gone.
At least the pain provides perspective.
Two weeks ago Ninkovich suffered a hip injury in New England's season finale against the Dolphins. The defensive end went down hard in the second quarter. He couldn't walk on his own.
As Ninkovich was helped to the sideline, each arm draped over the shoulders of a team trainer, the situation looked grim.
The Patriots were gearing up for a playoff run. Would they have to do it without their starting left end? Would Ninkovich be denied his chance at postseason redemption after last year's Super Bowl loss?
"I've had a couple of injuries that, when it happens you think it could be your career," he shrugged Sunday. "Actually, this last time it's happened to me a few times, unfortunately, so I was a little bit better taking it and saying, 'Calm down. Don't get too upset. You don't know what it is yet.'
"I was happy that it wasn't affect me going forward in the playoffs."
Not only was he active for Sunday's Divisional Playoff, he resumed his starting role. Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork said after the game, a 41-28 win over Houston, how much it meant to have Ninkovich out there.
"He's a tough player. He's a great, great player. He's a student of the game. He loves to play. The passion that he has for the game anything you want in a teammate, that's what he brings to the table. His leadership -- he's kind of behind the scenes -- but he's a great leader on and off the field."
Head coach Bill Belichick added, "Hes had a great season. His production is right up there at the very top of the league at his position. Hes made big plays for us in the past sacks, strips, fumbles, recovered fumbles, tackles for loss, all that. We know hes got good hands."
Unfortunately for Houston, his hands were particularly excellent on Sunday.
The Texans faced third-and-8 on New England's 37 in the third quarter. Quarterback Matt Schaub got into shotgun. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo saw something from Houston and communicated it to Ninkovich, who dropped into coverage.
Schaub thought he had fullback James Casey working over the middle. Instead, he threw a ball into the arms of a leaping Ninkovich.
"Hes had many interceptions before; made a great play there," Belichick noted. "We blitzed from the outside, he dropped down inside, got underneath the route and really made a great catch on the ball. It was high, tough catch but Robs a good athlete. He makes it look easy; he catches the ball well."
The interception grew greater as New England turned it into points.
Ninkovich was downed at his own 37. The Patriots offense went the rest of the way on six plays executed in less than three minutes. The score put them up 31-13 and put Houston back on its heels.
"He's a special player for us and it shows," said Wilfork. "He makes plays after plays because he puts the time in and works his tail off. We see a lot of plays being made in practice, so we expect it; they don't come by surprise to us because we know what type of player this guy is."
His teammates laud him for being a workhorse of a player. This week, Ninkovich was just grateful to play, period.
"I felt pretty good tonight. This week I'm going to get even better. I'm happy I'll be able to go out there and give 100-percent."

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.”