New England Patriots defensive stalwart Rob Ninkovich capped his 11-year NFL career by announcing his retirement Sunday after the team's morning practice at Gillette Stadium.
Since joining the Patriots in 2009, Ninkovich had proven to be one of the team's most durable and dependable players.
A defensive end and linebacker, he was a two-time co-captain and won two Super Bowls with New England. But he didn't take the easiest route to get there.
A fifth-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, he was waived four times by the Saints and Miami Dolphins before joining the Patriots just before the start of the 2009 season — after spending that offseason trying to make the Saints as a long snapper.
Before joining New England, he had appeared in just eight games over three seasons.
With New England he missed just one game, in 2009, before last season, when he started the season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing substances. From 2011-2015, he started every regular-season game.
He played in 131 games with 101 starts, with 425 tackles, 46 sacks, and five interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown in 2011. He also appeared in 17 playoff games, all with New England, making 16 starts, with 64 total tackles and six sacks.
Ninkovich had been absent since training camp started on Thursday, for what the team called personal reasons.
"I wanted to make sure I made the right choice," Ninkovich said. "That was talking with my family, and looking at the pros and cons. And coming in as a guy that had been cut a bunch, I've had injuries, I've had knee injuries that were close to being career-ending. It's lasted me 11 years so I'm happy I've had that durability there.
"It wasn't an easy decision. After 11 seasons, and 19 seasons total playing football, it's time for me to walk away. I look forward to the next phase of my life."
In other training camp news:
-- The Minnesota Vikings have signed star cornerback Xavier Rhodes to a five-year contract extension. The deal was done on Sunday, with Rhodes entering his fifth NFL season on the final year of his rookie contract. Rhodes was picked for his first Pro Bowl in 2016, tallying a career-high five interceptions while regularly assigned to cover the opponent's best wide receiver. NFL Media reported that Rhodes can make as much as $70 million over the duration of the new deal through the 2022 season.