“You just have to play with a different type of leverage and mentality, obviously, (when you’re) going against a guy that you’re giving up a lot of weight to,” he said, “but it’s all about technique and working your hands and not letting them get underneath you. So being a little bit shorter ... helps you get underneath those guys. They don’t like that too much.”
Last season, his seventh in the NFL and third with the Patriots, Ninkovich started all 16 games at outside linebacker. He made a career-high 62 tackles, had 6 1/2 sacks, returned one of his two interceptions for touchdowns, forced one fumble and recovered two.
The drafting of outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the first round this year allowed the Patriots to move Ninkovich to end. In the first three games, he had just six tackles and a half sack. But in the other two, he made 11 tackles with two sacks and three forced fumbles.
“I don’t think I was frustrated,” Ninkovich said. “I just knew my time would come to make some plays. As a defensive end, you’re not going to get the big numbers of tackles that some linebackers do, obviously, because you’re in a different spot and you’re not always having the ball (get) to you every time.”
But he has made some big plays.
The Patriots were leading the Broncos 24-7 when Ninkovich beat right guard Orlando Franklin to the outside, came up behind Manning and smacked the ball loose with his right hand. Vince Wilfork recovered at the Broncos 14-yard line.
“The first couple of drives I was trying to just bull rush, trying to collapse the pocket a little bit,” Ninkovich said. “Then on that one rush I just changed it up and swiped (at the ball).”