"Rob is a vet in the game, has been doing it for years," Flowers said. "To have him back there in the swing of things is definitely going to help us out, so it's good."
Ninkovich, who was suspended for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy, ranked fourth on the Pats last season with 6.5 sacks, first with 13 quarterback hits and 22 pressures, and tied for second by forcing opponents to commit five penalties.
The 31-year-old was also crestfallen last month when he got word of his suspension, which he said was a result of over-the-counter supplements, so he should be motivated to prove himself on the backside of the ban.
Ninkovich was all smiles while bounding about the locker room yesterday.
"He looks good," Long said. "I'm excited."
Ninkovich's usage will be interesting because Sheard (73.3 percent of the
Just look at the production they've gotten in Ninkovich's absence.
Sheard leads the team with three sacks, is tied with Long for the lead with five pressures, ranks third with four quarterback hits and has drawn two penalties and amassed two run stuffs. Long has one sack, leads the Pats with four drawn penalties, ranks second with five quarterback hits and also has two run stuffs and a fumble recovery. Flowers has a team-best seven quarterback hits to go along with one drawn penalty, a fumble recovery and a batted pass.
As a group, the three defensive ends have four sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 10 pressures, seven drawn penalties and four run stuffs. The rest of the team has a combined three sacks, eight quarterback hits, six pressures, one drawn penalty and two run stuffs.
"We're just doing our job, doing what coach asks us to do," Sheard said.
Long elaborated: "We've got good players. We've got good depth, and guys are willing to do whatever it takes to be successful and however they can help the team."
Ninkovich's inclusion reinforces the edge rushers, which is important because Sheard, Long and Flowers have all missed time due to injuries in recent seasons. And quite frankly, Ninkovich would have missed some regular-season action last month while recovering from a torn triceps muscle, so it's valuable to have that rotation.
There isn't a team on the planet that has ever complained about having too many pass rushers. While the
And if their health remains intact, the quartet of pass rushers will continue to be a true strength.
"It's definitely valuable to have that depth on that position because we're dropping (in coverage), chasing quarterbacks that run, chasing running backs, playing blocks," Flowers said. "That's the name of the game. You've got to be consistent. You can't be up and down."
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