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Presence of players, coaches made Rob Ninkovich's retirement unique, special

Presence of players, coaches made Rob Ninkovich's retirement unique, special

New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who has been absent from training camp for what coach Bill Belichick described as personal reasons, announced his National Football League retirement Sunday afternoon.

Ninkovich is expected to announce his retirement on Sunday, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss. He was a fifth-round draft pick (135th overall) of the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Underneath the message was Ninkovich's No. 50, with a New England Patriots logo in the middle, and then five images of Ninkovich, one of which was him kissing the Lombardi Trophy.

Ninkovich's career took off with the Patriots, making eight sacks in three consecutive seasons from 2012-14. He was a team captain in 2013 and 2015 and was a big part of bringing two championships to the team. He also played in 17 postseason games with 16 starts and finished with 64 total tackles, six sacks, one interception, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

The New England Patriots are a controversial National Football League team and they have been so for a long time.

"I hope it was enough", Ninkovich said.

But by the end of the year, in the team's most critical games, his playing time had spiked.

Rob Ninkovich will go down as one of the most valuable players. I'm just happy that I was able to play for this organization as long as I have.

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.

A tearful Ninkovich spoke directly to Belichick at the news conference. "If you see me out there", he said, "I like ice water". He was a little bit of a 'Was he a linebacker?

"Just being honest with myself and talking to Bill", Ninkovich said. "I know he's a great teammate as well". "I love this game".

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