Bill Belichick congratulates 'tough Croatian' Rob Ninkovich on tremendous career

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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. But what Belichick loved the most out of Ninkovich, originally a fifth-round pick from Purdue by the Saints in the 2006 NFL Draft, was his toughness.

Here's one thing we know: Ninkovich won't be playing elsewhere. The pass-rushing linebacker played 11 seasons and told reporters he was listening to his body in deciding to retire before a 12th year in the NFL. A two-time co-captain, Ninkovich spent the last eight seasons with the Patriots and was a part of two Super Bowl Championship teams.

"I'm telling you, 2009 was my last shot", Ninkovich said. After he played just three games as a rookie, the Saints cut Ninkovich in 2007, and the Miami Dolphins claimed him. "To think I was the 80th roster guy for a tryout in 2009, and to be here where I'm at right now, speaking with everybody, just to have this experience, to have my teammates here".

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"Personally, [I] just can't thank you enough for your contributions to the team [and] to the organization", Belichick said.

Ninkovich became tearful when addressing defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, thanking Patricia for beliving in him.

Ninkovich lined up at both defensive end and outside linebacker during his tenure in New England, and finishes his career with 460 tackles, 46 sacks, 27 tackles for a loss, 10 forced fumbles, and five interceptions. "If you see me out there", he said, "I like ice water".

Ninkovich recalled the pressure to impress immediately in New England. "After eleven seasons and nineteen seasons total playing football, it's time for me to walk away, and I look forward to the next phase of my life". "It's been such a blessing and a heck of a run", Ninkovich said. The group did not determine that what the news gathering is for, however it's broadly accepted that it's Ninkovich's legitimate retirement declaration.