FOXBOROUGH — Probably more significant than the signing of any one particular free agent or selection of any rookie draft pick is the return of three star contributors to the Patriots defense.
Because of that, Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said the team is feeling a boost of confidence going into training camp.
"Last year it was tough when we lost [Jerod] Mayo and Vince [Wilfork] and Tommy [Kelly]," Ninkovich said. "Those were big blows. So, having those guys next to you definitely gives you more confidence."
How that translates to expectations is another matter.
"You guys are the media," Ninkovich told reporters. "I know what the expectations are, but every year there are always high expectations just because we’re on one of the best teams in the NFL.
"For me personally, there is always an expectation to do better [than] what I did the previous season," he said. "So I’m always trying to improve and be a better football player. Every year of experience you get, you want to maximize your abilities and continue to improve as you get older. Everyone knows when you get older, they say your speed and talent and all of that stuff fades away, but your experience grows. I’d say that my experiences here have helped me become a better football player and more productive on the field. Goals for this year for me are just for me to be a better football player than I was last year."