He ended his career as a two-time Super Bowl champion, having been a vital part of the Patriots defense.
Ninkovich was credited with 423 tackles and 46 sacks with the Patriots, as his steadiness and ability to set the edge in the running game was particularly valuable to the club.
Payton, who has mentioned Ninkovich many times as a regret from his career with the Saints after the team tried to transform him into a long snapper following a torn ACL, took note of the announcement.
"I wanted to make sure I made the right choice", Ninkovich said.
But by the end of the year, in the team's most critical games, his playing time had spiked.
Belichick spoke first and noted how Ninkovich is one of the most unselfish players he's ever coached. The Patriots have done this in the past with their wonderful organization and coach.
#Rob Ninkovich issued a statement at the conference with the team on Sunday. "I hope it was enough", Ninkovich said. "If you see me out there", he said, "I like ice water". "I love this game". If I am not mistaken early in his career he bounced around a little bit and been cut a couple of times. "Nick [Caserio] said 'There's a guy, Rob, he should be on a roster, he should be in a camp and he's available so let's get him.' Really, it's just history after that".