Pa­tri­ots’ Ninkovich sus­pended for PEDs

De­fen­sive end to miss four games; more play­ers join Kaeper­nick’s an­them protest

Baltimore Sun - - NFL -

The NFL sus­pended New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots de­fen­sive end Rob Ninkovich on Fri­day for the first four games of the reg­u­lar sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s pol­icy on per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing sub­stances.

It is the lat­est blow to the Pa­tri­ots, who will also be with­out quar­ter­back Tom Brady the first four games as he serves a league-im­posed sus­pen­sion for his role in the “De­flate­gate” case.

Like Brady, Ninkovich will not be el­i­gi­ble to re­turn to the Pa­tri­ots’ ac­tive ros­ter un­til Oct. 3, af­ter the team’s game against the Buf­falo Bills.

Ninkovich told ESPN that he is dev­as­tated and shocked, and said he would never know­ingly take an il­le­gal sub­stance.

“Few things are more im­por­tant to me than my name and rep­u­ta­tion. This might call that into ques­tion for some, which has me heart­bro­ken,” Ninkovich said. “I don’t want to cut any cor­ners. I want to do things the right way, with high in­tegrity, and that’s what I have al­ways wanted to stand for.”

The 32-year-old has not played this pre­sea­son af­ter suf­fer­ing a re­ported tri­ceps in­jury dur­ing a joint train­ing camp prac­tice with the New Or­leans Saints on Aug. 9. He had re­turned to prac­tice re­cently, but had par­tic­i­pated only in light con­di­tion­ing.

Ninkovich was a de­fen­sive cap­tain in 2015 and had 52 tack­les and 61⁄ sacks.

Per­haps more im­por­tant than his pro­duc­tion, he has been New Eng­land’s ironman on de­fense, play­ing in102 con­sec­u­tive reg­u­lar-sea­son games. That is be­hind only the Green Bay Pack­ers’ Julius Pep­pers and the In­di­anapo­lis Colts’ Ken­dall Lang­ford, who have both played in 128 straight games. Kaeper­nick has com­pany: While a naval of­fi­cer sang the first notes of “The StarS­pan­gled Ban­ner” and dozens of mil­i­tary mem­bers un­furled an enor­mous flag on the foot­ball field, Colin Kaeper­nick and Eric Reid dropped to one knee on the San Fran­cisco 49ers’ side­line.

With his silent ges­tures of protest, Kaeper­nick in­tends to keep draw­ing at­ten­tion to a litany of Amer­i­can prob­lems — and he’s no longer alone.

Kaeper­nick and Reid knelt dur­ing the na­tional an­them Thurs­day be­fore the 49ers’ 31-21 pre­sea­son vic­tory over San Diego, ig­nor­ing scat­tered boos and an­gry shouts in Qual­comm Sta­dium at the Charg­ers’ Salute to the Mil­i­tary pre­sea­son game.

Up north in Oak­land, Seat­tle Sea­hawks cor­ner­back Jeremy Lane showed his sup­port for Kaeper­nick by sit­ting on the bench dur­ing the an­them.

“I’m not anti-Amer­i­can. I love Amer­ica,” said Kaeper­nick, who stayed on the field long af­ter the game to sign au­to­graphs for fans. “I love peo­ple. That’s why I’m do­ing this. I want to help make Amer­ica bet­ter, and I think hav­ing th­ese con­ver­sa­tions helps ev­ery­body have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of where ev­ery­body is com­ing from.”

Kaeper­nick’s protest has dom­i­nated the pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the na­tion’s most pop­u­lar sport this week, and his stance has been met with both pas­sion­ate con­dem­na­tion and firm sup­port. His re­fusal to stand for the an­them first came to pub­lic no­tice last week when he re­mained seated on the 49ers’ bench be­fore a pre­sea­son game against Green Bay.

The quar­ter­back cited nu­mer­ous rea­sons for his ac­tions, rang­ing from ra­cial in­jus­tice and mi­nor­ity op­pres­sion to po­lice bru­tal­ity and the treat­ment of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

Kaeper­nick said he plans to con­tinue his protests dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. He also in­tends to do­nate $1 mil­lion “to dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions to help th­ese com­mu­ni­ties and help th­ese peo­ple.” The 49ers’ Colin Kaeper­nick kneels dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore a pre­sea­son game against the Charg­ers on Thurs­day. Browns add Paea: The Cleve­land Brown signed de­fen­sive line­man Stephen Paea, a 2011 sec­ond-round pick re­leased this week by the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. The 6-foot-1, 310-pound Paea gives the Browns some depth and ver­sa­til­ity up front.

With Des­mond Bryant out for the sea­son with a chest in­jury and Ar­monty Bryant sched­uled to miss four games be­cause of his sus­pen­sion for a drug vi­o­la­tion, the Browns were in the mar­ket for line help.

Be­fore the Browns an­nounced his sign­ing, Paea posted a pic­ture on Twit­ter of him sign­ing his new con­tract with the cap­tion “One man’s trash is an­other man’s trea­sure.”

CHRIS CARL­SON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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