Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn't return. (Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn’t return. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Sometimes the hidden skills of an NFL player are forgotten.

Take Rob Ninkovich. Long before he became one of the better edge rushers in football and a perfect fit in the Patriots defense, he found his way onto an NFL roster through his special teams skills. Namely, Ninkovich perfected his long snapping skills.

With Joliet Junior College and Purdue University and then in the NFL with the Saints and Dolphins, Ninkovich proved his worth by not only rushing the passer but perfecting his long snapping skills, working on punt, extra point and field goal units.

“Snapping? I’ve been doing it for a long time now,” Ninkovich said. “That’s something that I’ve always worked on, constantly worked at and been able to use that, have that in my back pocket whenever there’s an issue [like] if a snapper hurts his hand or something, I can go out there and get the job done. Again, that just comes with doing it [in high school], doing it [in college] and it’s just another one of those things that can help the team.

“You can’t just expect to snap a football and not have done it or practiced it. I work on it all the time. Again [it's about], the more things you can do, and the more things you can help your team out with.”

Ninkovich was spotted before the third preseason game with the Panthers working on his long snapping, though unlike Tom Brady, he did not make a special teams appearance during the preseason.

As Bill Belichick conceded Sunday in a conference call with reporters, Ninkovich could definitely be ‘an option’ for the Patriots as long snapper after the release of Danny Aiken as part of the cuts over the weekend.

“Whatever it is I’m doing, we all have multiple roles,” Ninkovich said. “I’m going to focus in on playing defense. Special teams, I’ve done it in the past. It’s something where if ever there’s opportunity for me to go out there and do it, I could do it. I’ve done it before.”

The Patriots did sign long snapper Charley Hughlett on Monday but that was to the practice squad. So, for right now, the active player on the roster with long snapping experience is Ninkovich.

“I don’t want to get into what I am doing and what I won’t be doing,” Ninkovich said. “Whatever I am doing and whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities.

“I’ve been in that position before. It’s one thing about this league, you never know what’s going to happen. I understand the anxiety that comes with that day. You just feel for those guys that weren’t able to stick around because there are a lot of good football players that don’t have a job. You just hope that they get another opportunity and go somewhere else and make the best of it.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The replacement for Ryan Mallett is officially on the practice squad. Well, at least his roster spot among quarterbacks.

FOXBORO — The replacement for Ryan Mallett is officially on the practice squad. Well, at least his roster spot among quarterbacks.

The Patriots announced Monday that they have signed the full compliment of practice squad players as allowed under the new rules in the collective bargaining agreement. Among them is 26-year-old McLeod Bethel-Thompson, a third-year quarterback out of UCLA and Sacramento State.

The Patriots kept three quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo – throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason, before trading Mallett to the Texans on Sunday for a future late-round draft pick.

Professionally, Bethel-Thompson has been with Miami (2011), Minnesota (2012-2013) and San Francisco (2013). The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, was originally signed by San Francisco on July 28, 2011, as a rookie free agent. He was released by San Francisco at the end of training camp and joined the Miami practice squad in late December.

Bethel-Thompson spent the entire 2011 season as the third-string quarterback for Minnesota. He was released by Minnesota in October of 2013 and was claimed and awarded to San Francisco, where he spent time on both the 53-man roster and the practice squad.

Additionally, the Patriots announced that they have signed nine others to the practice squad. They include DL Jake Bequette, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Josh Boyce, LB Ja’€™Gared Davis, S Kanorris Davis, RB Jonas Gray, DL Charley Hughlett, OL Chris Martin, DL Deonate Skinner and DB Daxton Swanson.

Bequette, Boyce, Ja’€™Gared Davis, Kanorris Davis, Gray, Martin, Skinner and Swanson all were in camp with the Patriots this season. Hughlett spent part of the offseason with the Patriots this year.

Hughlett, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Dallas Cowboys out of Central Florida on April 30, 2012. He is a long-snapper by trade and took snaps Monday with the punting team. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder was released by Dallas on Aug. 27, 2012. He was re-signed by Dallas on Jan. 7, 2013 and released for a second time on May 29, 2013. After being released by New England in May, Hughlett was signed by Jacksonville on June 19, 2014 before being released on Aug. 25, 2014. He handled all long snapping duties for four seasons at Central Florida.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — All eligible players were accounted for at Patriots practice in shorts and shells on Monday on the upper grass fields as the team got a head start on the season opener this Sunday in Miami.

FOXBORO — All eligible players were accounted for at Patriots practice in shorts and shells on Monday on the upper grass fields as the team got a head start on the season opener this Sunday in Miami.

The only players not on hand were receiver Brian Tyms and defensive back Brandon Browner, both of whom are serving league-mandated four-game suspensions for violation of the NFL PED policy. Beginning Monday, neither player are permitted to practice with the team or use team facilities during the suspension.

The practice also featured the debut of several players signed to the practice squad, including quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Josh Boyce, LB Ja’€™Gared Davis, DE Jake Bequette, S Kanorris Davis, RB Jonas Gray, DL/LS Charley Hughlett, OL Chris Martin, DL Deonate Skinner and DB Daxton Swanson.

Bequette, Boyce, Ja’€™Gared Davis, Kanorris Davis, Gray, Martin, Skinner and Swanson all were in camp with the Patriots this season. Hughlett spent part of the offseason with the Patriots this year.

During the media portion of practice, long snapper Charley Hughlett was working with the punt team and Bethel-Thompson was working with the secondary on throwing deep balls.

There was one uniform number change of note as linebacker Darius Fleming went from No. 44 to No. 58.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — It’s not often that a player gets to break news but Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski broke some big news Monday before practice.

FOXBORO — It’s not often that a player gets to break news but Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski broke some big news Monday before practice.

“Yep I am [excited]. I’m good to go. I’ll be playing,” Gronkowski announced as he declared himself ready for Sunday’s season opener in Miami against the Dolphins.

This will mark the first game action of any kind since he tore his right ACL against Cleveland last December. Still, Gronkowski feels he’s fit enough to play a regular season game.

“Super-excited,” Gronkowski said. “Just seeing my teammates grind all week. Go back out there with them, get in the huddle, break the huddle with them. It’s going to be an honor to be out there with my teammates. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.

“I feel mentally and physically ready, for sure. No doubt about it.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Patriots fans don't have to go far in the NFL history books to find a point of comparison when it comes to the departure of Logan Mankins via a trade to the Buccaneers last week.



TIM BENZ

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The Patriots have added quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to the practice squad, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

The Patriots have added quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to the practice squad, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder out of UCLA has bounced around professional football the last few years — he’s had stints with the Niners, Dolphins and Vikings, as well as San Jose of the Arena Football League and Sacramento of the United Football League. He was with San Francisco in camp earlier this summer, but was part of the cuts that reduced the roster to 75 players. In three preseason games this summer, the 26-year-old was 11-for-18 for 113 yards no touchdowns and two interceptions.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price