FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After playing primarily as an outside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 defensive scheme in recent seasons, Rob Ninkovich has worked as a defensive end throughout training camp.
It may represent a position switch on the roster, but head coach Bill Belichick said on Thursday afternoon that Ninkovich remains largely what he has been in the past: an end-of-the-line player.
Belichick did offer, however, that the frequency that Ninkovich handles certain responsibilities may change (perhaps lining up with a hand in the dirt and rushing the passer), and the 28-year old seems excited about handling such duties in 2012.
"Coming into camp, I knew that obviously there was going to be some changes," he told reporters on Thursday afternoon. "There’s always changes in training camp. I was able to go to a position I played before, which is defensive end. It’s a little more go get the quarterback, go get the ball type mentality. It’s fun for me."
Ninkovich was a defensive end at Purdue, and believes that being able to play multiple positions helps his entire defense.
"Obviously in college that was my position. That’s all I played. My first couple of years in the NFL I was only a defensive end," he said. "I came here and learned how to play outside linebacker, it’s kind of something that I’m just kind of adding to the bag of tricks. If you can play d-end, play outside backer, just overall, it just helps everything."
We've seen Ninkovich play on either side in camp, and when asked specifically about being able to play the left side of the line -- where offenses often align the strength of their formation and run -- he expressed confidence.
"I mean, I’m pretty strong. I’ve always been pretty strong, so I think that tight ends, I’ve been able to handle them pretty well; tackles, you know, both of them at the same time, I should be alright," he continued. "I’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s just something that you work on. You get your techniques right, you get your hand placement right, and especially in that position, it’s more about technique and leverage then it is just brute strength."