Ninkovich retirement could be coming

Rob Ninkovich expected to announce retirement after 11 NFL seasons

Ninkovich began his career with the New Orleans Saints, and called his release from the Saints a "blessing" for how it allowed him to begin his career with the Pats.

Ninkovich made the announcement surrounded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and the coaching staff, and many teammates including quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, captain Matthew Slater, safety Devin McCourty, defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

After Ninkovich announced his retirement from the National Football League on Sunday, both Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft lauded the 33-year-old linebacker for an 11-year career that saw him win a pair of Super Bowls with the Patriots.

Wearing No. 50, he reminded some of former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was a key contributor on three Super Bowl-winning teams. He finishes his career with 46 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

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Ninkovich, 33, was originally a 2006 fifth-round pick of the Saints. He had been a consistent starter in New England for the the past seven years. He also appeared in 16 postseason games, collecting 34 tackles, six sacks and an interception. The team said Ninkovich was out due to personal reasons.

"There's something to be said about going out on top", Ninkovich said Sunday.

After Belichick spoke at length about Ninkovich as a special player and "really special guy", it was Kraft's turn to heap praise on Ninkovich during what Belichick described as a day of mixed emotions. Ninkovich choked up several times during his delivery, including when he spoke directly to Belichick. Thank you. Hopefully my playing career has taught me a lot. 'What do you need me to do, coach?.

As Belichick said, "You can see the testament of everyone here, what Rob means to all of us". "Playing for you, I've learned a tremendous amount".

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