FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Ninkovich said during his retirement speech he wanted to remain involved with the New England Patriots. It didn’t take him long to get started.
Just three days after announcing his retirement from the NFL, Ninkovich was back on the Gillette Stadium practice fields Wednesday morning, teaching some of the Patriots’ young defenders the finer points of pass rushing.
One of his pupils was rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise, who’s taken on an unexpectedly prominent role during his first NFL training camp.
Wise, a fourth-round draft pick who called Ninkovich “an older brother/father-like figure” earlier this year, said he’s thrilled to have the 33-year-old in his corner.
“(It’s) very valuable,” the Arkansas product said. “He’s a players’ coach in my eyes. He’s a guy who played the same position as I (do) and also a coach, so he can feel how I feel. He’s someone I can relate to. When I talk to him about something, he’s always there. That’s kind of how he is.”
Ninkovich also spent time Wednesday directing another rookie, Harvey Langi, who has seen reps at both linebacker and edge rusher during camp. Ninkovich played both positions during his eight years with the Patriots.
“I’ve always looked up to him,” said Langi, an undrafted free agent out of BYU. “And then coming here and actually meeting Rob was — I was starstruck and just very impressed with the person he is off the field. He knows a lot. He’s done a lot of good things, and to me, he’s an amazing player.
“Anything that he can mentor me on or give me tips at, I’m going to sit there and listen and hopefully learn some of the things he’s experienced in the decade that he played.”
It’s unclear at this point how involved Ninkovich will be with the Patriots this season, as he’s yet to rejoin the team in any official capacity. In his farewell address Sunday, he said he’s also considering a career in media.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images