Rob Ninkovich practicing at linebacker during Patriots minicamp

Rob Ninkovich does some agility work during practice on May 26. Michael Dwyer/AP

If the New England Patriots have their way, one player could fill out multiple positions on their depth chart.

Rob Ninkovich has played linebacker throughout many camp, as opposed to his listed position of defensive end. There’s no reason to doubt that the eight-year veteran can make the switch; Ninkovich has played multiple positions in the front seven throughout his career, moving around from outside linebacker in a 3–4 to outside linebacker in a 4–3 to his most recent position as a 4–3 defensive end. He has been solid there, with 41 sacks in the past six seasons.

“Really, for me, it’s (about) being an overall football player in every aspect of the game,” he said Wednesday after practice. “So whatever it is, helping the team and just trying to learn different positions and being flexible. For me, it’s fun trying to learn different positions and to try and master being inside, outside, end of the line, whatever I need to do.”


Ninkovich mentioned that he played some inside linebacker from 2007-08 with the Miami Dolphins, and again with the Patriots in 2010-11. He has played defensive end since then.

“I’ve played multiple positions many times in my life,” he said, “so wherever I’m at, it’s just to help the team and do whatever I can and be multiple. I figure that’s one of the strengths of my game, is being able to play multiple positions.”

The Patriots were left thin at linebacker after Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins both went down with injuries in 2015, so the practice could benefit the Patriots in the long run. That being said, It doesn’t necessarily signal a full-time move for Ninkovich. His versatility gives the patriots the option to have him as a starter at one position and a back up at another.


“This game, there’s many things that are hard to master,” Ninkovich said. “Trying to learn different positions is a challenge, and I embrace that.”

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