Bad news for the Patriots defense.
According to Field Yates and Mike Reiss of ESPN, OLB/DE Rob Ninkovich has received a four game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 2, 2016
NFL Network’s reports that Ninkovich was already set to miss the first four games of the regular season due to injury.
Because of his injury, #Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich wouldn’t be playing the 1st 4 games anyway. But monetarily and reputation-wise, it hurts
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 2, 2016
Even so, it will add to the perception around the NFL, and NFL fans, that the Patriots are a dirty team.
He will join quarterback Tom Brady, who is also out of the lineup until week five due to his involvement with Deflategate. Ninkovich told Reiss he is devastated and heartbroken by the suspension.
The 11-year veteran has been a stalwart on Bill Belichick’s defense for the last seven seasons. He recorded eight sacks in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
After trading Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for help on the offensive line the Patriots could’ve used all of the pass rushing assistance they could get.
They signed Chris Long in the offseason, but he hasn’t been healthy for the last two seasons, which is why the Los Angeles Rams felt he wasn’t needed in their deep group of defensive linemen.
The Patriots have a storm to weather for the first quarter of the NFL season. It may not be as easy for them to rebound in the AFC East as it has been in the past. The Buffal Bills are comfortable with their starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and the New York Jets have a deep roster.
This division race could be interesting for the first time since 2008, when Tom Brady’s ACL helped propel the Miami Dolphins to the division championship.