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His decision comes as no surprise; he'd been missing from camp for what Belichick had said were personal reasons.

Ninkovich is expected to announce his retirement on Sunday, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.

When Ninkovich was with New Orleans, he dealt with injuries, and coaches struggled to find a good fit for him in their 4-3 defense.

Ninkovich made the announcement surrounded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and the coaching staff, and many teammates including quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, captain Matthew Slater, safety Devin McCourty, defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

"I won't miss ice tubs and being sore for a week". The Patriots have done this in the past with their unbelievable organization and coach. He went back to New Orleans late in the 2008 season before the Patriots signed him as a free agent on August 2, 2009.

Ninkovich played in 44.3 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016, which was lower than his norm, in part because he served a four-game suspension to open the season after a positive test for a banned substance he said was from an over-the-counter supplement. "Nick [Caserio] said 'There's a guy, Rob, he should be on a roster, he should be in a camp and he's available so let's get him.' Really, it's just history after that".

"He's got a lot of great attributes, and one of the best, I think, is his first name", Kraft joked "Secondly, as Coach and I have described, he was a great player for us for almost a decade". And I hope it was enough. "I look forward to the next phase of my life". "I love this game". And while Trey Flowers is locked into one starting spot, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Geneo Grissom and Deatrich Wise Jr. are now fighting for the other.

"He won two Super Bowls in New England". "Me and him have a great relationship, just being honest".