FOXBORO, Mass. — It would be easy to read a little too much into Rob Ninkovich's involvement as the Patriots' backup long snapper.
For instance, with the Pats trying to place as many serviceable bodies on the 53-man roster, a guy like Ninkovich — who is a nice backup outside linebacker and has good special teams value — can do more things than starting long snapper Jake Ingram. That, in essence, could cause head coach Bill Belichick to flirt with the idea of carrying Ninkovich over Ingram, which could help the Patriots carry an extra defensive lineman or linebacker.
However, Ninkovich said his reps at long snapper have been for the purpose of keeping him fresh in case he's ever needed in an emergency, such as an injury to Ingram.
"I think I'm a guy that can come in and get the job done, and [the coaches] don't have to worry," Ninkovich said. "A lot of teams, if their snapper is injured, they have to worry. Here, if anything was to ever happen to our snapper, they know that a snapper is going to go in there and there's nothing to worry about."
Ninkovich, who visited Ingram in Hawaii in February, has been long snapping since the eighth grade. He did it in high school, junior college and then at Purdue, and he entered the 2009 season as the Saints' long snapper before getting cut on the eve of training camp.
"I can snap in the league," Ninkovich said. "That's one thing as I get older, that's one thing I want to look at to do as my career goes on. I feel like I can snap in this league, and I can do well at it. Right now, if there's any situation like if Jake jams a finger, they just know that they've got a guy that can come in and snap and not have any performance-level drop."
Ninkovich was in to snap a punt against the Saints in the preseason opener, similar to how Belichick randomly throws a backup quarterback into the game to make sure they're mentally sharp. He's also taken a handful of reps at practice.
Ingram had a flawless rookie season in 2009, and it appears his job security is just fine. Yet, he and Ninkovich spend plenty of time discussing long snapping away from the field to make sure each one can experience a high level of success when their number is called.
"We're kind of similar," Ninkovich said. "We're not blind snappers, so we look where we're throwing the ball, so we have a similar style. I've been doing it so long that he'll show me something on his hand placement if the ball is wet, use a seem. There's certain things. Field goal, give the laces, rotate the ball a bit differently. It's something we talk about. We're pretty good friends, so on and off the field, we talk about snapping all the time."
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