Ninkovich, Murrell vie to fill OLB void

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With the Patriots releasing Derrick Burgess on Saturday, all eyes will be on who starts at left outside linebacker.

Five-year veteran Rob Ninkovich and four-year veteran Marques Murrell are the top candidates, as rookie Jermaine Cunningham remains out of practice.

After Monday’s practice, both were asked their reaction to the news with Burgess.

“I was surprised that he wasn’t going to be around,” Ninkovich acknowledged.

Murrell, on the other hand, hardly flinched.

“I was in the garage, working on a table, and I just kept working,” he said.

Yet both were in agreement that what has unfolded has given them the best chance of their careers. Murrell was primarily a special teams player in his three seasons with the Jets, while Ninkovich was a defensive end with the Saints, then an inside linebacker on the Dolphins’ practice squad, before returning to the Saints as a long snapper.

“It’s a big opportunity and it all comes out to going out there and performing,” Ninkovich said. “That’s the No. 1 thing I’m focusing on, getting everything I have to and getting it right.”

Said Murrell, “Whatever opportunity I’m blessed with, I’m going to take it and run with it.”