The Patriot Way, however you want to categorize it, is based on one fundamental principle: winning. Rob Ninkovich exemplifies that concept, so it’s no wonder that he’ll be sticking around New England a while longer.
Ninkovich agreed to a new three-year extension with the Patriots over the weekend, meaning that in all likelihood he’ll be sporting the Flying Elvis on his helmet through the 2016 season, which is exactly what he wanted all along.
“I knew that I wanted to be here,” Ninkovich said during an appearance on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni on Monday. “This is the place that I was given an opportunity. I really respected that, because if it wasn’t for the opportunity that was given here, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
Ninkovich bounced around the league a bit during his first three seasons, spending part of three seasons back-and-forth between both the Saints and Dolphins. It wasn’t until he signed with the Patriots during training camp in 2009 that he finally found a home in the league. Since then, Ninkovich has become an integral piece on the Patriots’ defense, playing as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker over the past four-plus seasons and racking up 236 tackles, 19.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Those sort of numbers would have drawn plenty of attention for Ninkovich if he hit the free-agent market this offseason, but the now 29-year-old veteran held one thing above all else — and the Patriots do it better than any other team.
“Given that, I really wanted to stick around and win games and be on a winning team,” Ninkovich said. “That goes a long way as well. You can go search for money and all that stuff, but if you’re losing every week, you’d be pretty miserable. I want to be here, I want to win and I want to help the team and just continue to be a good football player and be reliable.”
Reliability is something that the Patriots value above all else. Bill Belichick even noted that during his Week 1 press conference, saying “we like to say that dependability is more important than ability.” And, not so coincidentally, Ninkovich happens to be as reliable as they come, playing in 66 of a possible 67 games over his four-plus season with the Patriots through Sunday.
There’s no predicting what might come over the next four years, but if the past is any indication, then it’s at least safe to assume this deal will be a win-win.