Rob Ninkovich speaks to reporters in Foxboro. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)
FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich is in a tough spot.
But as the pass rushing specialist indicated Sunday, he’s at least got the chance to fight through adversity and get back on the playing field. With Chandler Jones off to Arizona, Ninkovich is the most accomplished best pass-rushing specialist on the roster, totaling 30.5 sacks, including 6.5 last season.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since tearing his triceps on Aug. 9 in a joint practice with the Saints, Ninkovich said he’s getting his practice in as much as the injury would allow.
As a rookie with the Saints in 2006, his season ended after just three regular season games with a knee injury. The next summer, another knee injury wiped out his preseason and he was waived.
He went back and forth between the Saints and Dolphins before the Patriots signed him in 2009. His injury luck has changed with the Patriots. In that first season, he played 15 games. He’s played in every game since 2010 and hasn’t missed a start since 2011.
“It’s really hard,” he said. “I haven’t had to deal with anything like this for a long time. Just trying to work as hard as I can, and just trying to work and do the only thing I know how to do. That’s try to work hard to get back.”
Now, Ninkovich’s job is to get the mental reps in so that when he returns, he’s ready as possible.
“You watch the tape, you watch practice, you watch game film. You do the best you can to try and absorb what’s going on and put yourself out there [mentally]. Again, it’s just something you have to do when you’re in the position I’m in,” Ninkovich said. “When you can’t be on the field, you have to take as many mental reps and situational awareness to put yourself in that position of playing, even though I’m not on the field.
“It’s something, for me, as a football player, you’ve got to run around, you’ve got to use your legs. Keep running around and keep my wind, that’s the most important part.”
Ninkovich, 32, is the leader of a talented group, including Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and a host of younger players like Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom and Shea McClellin.
“Definitely, we’ve got a lot of great football players,” Ninkovich said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys. Chris [Long] obviously doing a great job coming in and being that sponge. Again, we’ve got a lot of knowledgeable football players.”
Ninkovich didn’t want to address any timetable for return, which initial reports had pegged at mid-October.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Ninkovich said. “Just want to try and take it day-by-day.”