From 2006 to 2008, Rob Ninkovich bounced around the league for three seasons but didn’t play much and was never a starter. Then, in 2009, Patriots coach Bill Belichick saw something in Ninkovich, signed him during training camp, put him on the regular-season roster and eventually made him a starter. Ninkovich has now started 57 consecutive games.
So it’s no surprise that Ninkovich thinks he owes a lot of his NFL success to Belichick, and that Ninkovich strongly disagrees with anyone who thinks Belichick is a jerk.
“The perception of Bill, they don’t really see Bill outside of his interviews,” Ninkovich said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. “He’s a funny guy, he has a great sense of humor and he’s the best football coach ever for a reason. He knows what he’s talking about. He knows how to get the best and the most out of each individual person. So the way he speaks, you definitely listen to the things that he says. You try to write down and absorb as much as you can. He has a ton of knowledge of the game. Walking around the locker room, walking around the facility, he’ll talk to you. He’s the best football coach I’ve been around. There is a definitely difference in the perception of what he is from the media versus what he really is. He’s always available if you need to speak to him. That’s another thing he always says, ‘just come to me’ and he’ll tell you it like it is. He won’t sugarcoat anything for you. That’s what you want — honest answers. As a football player, that’s a great thing, to be able to go to your head coach and be able to ask him a question and have him give you a straight-up answer.”
So why does Belichick so often come across as surly in his public appearances? Ninkovich says that’s mostly a result of the types of questions he’s answering in interviews and at press conferences.
“A lot of people just see an interview, some media guy asking him a dumb question and he likes to give it back to those guys especially,” Ninkovich said.
Belichick may not enjoy talking to reporters, but he enjoys talking football with football players. And Ninkovich is one of many players to say that, despite the coach’s gruff public demeanor, he enjoys playing for Belichick.