Rob Ninkovich Willing to Play Tight End if Patriots’ Need Arises

Rob Ninkovich Willing to Play Tight End if Patriots' Need Arises FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich laughed when he heard his teammates and coaches suggest he could play a little tight end in a pinch.

In the same breath, though, Ninkovich's eyes lit up over the intriguing notion. After all, Ninkovich recorded his first two career interceptions Monday night in Miami, and he made a pair of pretty sound catches to do so.

And hey, he's a versatile linebacker who plays special teams and wears No. 50. Ninkovich might have some Mike Vrabel in him, after all.

"I scored a couple [touchdowns] in college, one versus Notre Dame from [current Broncos quarterback Kyle] Orton, and the other one from [current Colts backup quarterback Curtis] Painter," said Ninkovich, who played at Purdue. "I'm not going to say no [to playing some offensive reps]. It would be awesome to be able to contribute like that, but I'm just going to do what I'm supposed to do."

Ninkovich's career performance certainly intrigued head coach Bill Belichick.

"Those were two good catches," Belichick said. "He really had to extend, reach out and catch the ball. It didn’t hit him right between the five and the zero like sometimes it does in those [interceptions]. That was a heck of a play, both of them, outstanding plays."

It was impressive to hear Ninkovich recall each interception in the immediate aftermath because he knew which route each Miami receiver was running, which indicates Ninkovich has strong field awareness. But Ninkovich, who also had a sack against the Dolphins, said he got off to a difficult start on the national stage.

"The first drive, I was kind of getting the butterflies out I guess," Ninkovich said. "There were a couple of plays I wish I’d like to have back, but I came to the sidelines and [linebackers coach] Matt Patricia was like, 'Hey, Rob, settle down. Just go out there and play.' I took his advice, relaxed a little bit, not be so wound up, and it definitely helped me."

A number of Patriots said they've seen Ninkovich pull off similar plays during practice, so they weren’t all that shocked to see him have such a big game against the Dolphins. And now that New England is without a certain big-play wide receiver, maybe they could call on Ninkovich to be the next Vrabel.

"If we ever have injuries at receiver or tight end, or need guys there, I guess we can call on Rob," Welker said. "He has great hands. He had a great game, and everything that was in the air, he pounced on."


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