Ninkovich, Edelman Injuries Are Bad Omen For Patriots


The key for New England Patriots players entering the upcoming NFL season is health.

During the second part of last season, the resounding message for the New England Patriots could be summarized in two words: get healthy. A total of 21 players were added to the reserve list during the course of the season, including the likes of Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, Nate Solder, and Dominique Easley.

This is, of course, without even mentioning Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Ryan Wendell, and Bryan Stork, who all missed at least one entire game due to injury. By the end of the year, New England was notably beaten, battered, and fatigued, resulting in a lackluster performance in the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos.

Now, just two weeks into training camp, there have already been two concerning injuries. Only days after being taken off the PUP for a foot injury, Julian Edelman was carted off the field during Tuesday’s joint practice between the Patriots and Saints.

Luckily, this injury does not seem to be as serious as the foot injury which sidelined Edelman last year for the last seven regular season games. Even though Edelman’s injury appears minor, linebacker Rob Ninkovich tore his triceps in the same practice per Mike Reiss, and could miss significant time, although the extent of the injury is unknown.

Ninkovich has only missed one game since the start of the 2009 season.

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick /

signed him prior to training camp in 2009. After only playing in eight games over three seasons with New Orleans and Miami, Ninkovich has appeared in


Patriots game but one since the start of the 2009 season. A true model for “The Patriot Way”, Ninkovich’s consistency has yielded significant results, recording 262 tackles, 5 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and 14 fumble recoveries during his tenure. More importantly, he has demanded the respect of coaches and teammates alike, earning himself the title of defensive captain.

“Rob’s got a great feel for the game. First of all, he’s got great physical skills. He can run, he’s athletic,” Belichick said early during training camp. “Mentally, he sees the game as well. He can move around, do different things. He doesn’t get bogged down.”

The Patriots front seven has always been a strength in the last few years and forced opposing offenses to beat them through the air. Ninkovich has been one of those anchors on the line during this successful run by New England, playing in 81 percent of all defensive snaps in 2015 which was first among all lineman and linebackers.

Even though Bill Belichick and the Patriots pride themselves on embracing the “next man up” mentality, some players on New England’s roster are imperative to their success. In losing five of their last eight to cap the 2015 season, it was extremely apparent that Tom Brady and the Patriots could only endure so many losses to injuries.

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The offense looked totally inept without a healthy combination of Brady, Gronkowski, and Edelman, and even those three players together were not good enough to advance against the Broncos. Heck, Bill Belichick has admitted before that a healthy Rob Gronkowski could have pushed the Patriots to a Super Bowl in 2011, 2012, or 2013 when they came short in the playoffs. Sometimes, one player can make up the difference between winning and losing.

“Those years, we had pretty good teams,” Belichick said on NFL Films “Do Your Job”. “Probably, the two big factors in those seasons, in the ultimate end of those seasons, were Rob’s lack of availability and our overall ability to play defense in critical situations….Had Rob been healthy in any of those three years, as close as those outcomes were, it might have made a difference.”

Although the secondary has improved in the last two years for the Patriots, there are significant questions surrounding the depth at corner and safety. Outside of Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler, the Patriots had a mixed bag of performances in defending the passing game during the 2015 season, thus making it extremely important for them to pressure the quarterback. Collectively, the injured Ninkovich and former teammate Chandler Jones accounted for 19 sacks last season for the Patriots.

One of the things that has contributed to Belichick’s success in the NFL is his ability to adapt according to new situations and learn how to manage his personnel. From benching to Drew Bledsoe for Tom Brady to signing an undrafted Popeye’s worker out of West Alabama, the winningest coach in franchise history always seems to be ahead of the curve.

Next: New England Patriots Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

With Brady suspended the first four games and already a few injuries in camp, it appears that the Patriots may need some more Belichick magic, in order to keep the ship afloat during the first month of the season.