HOWE: Patriots LB Ninkovich Could Return Next Week

Ian Logue
December 31, 2012 at 07:19pm ET

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It appears the Patriots may not be without linebacker Rob Ninkovich heading into the playoffs. (FILE:USPresswire)

For a team that has been so unlucky with injuries this season, it appears they may have finally dodged a bullet.

After watching Rob Ninkovich go down with what some had initially thought may have been a serious injury, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the veteran linebacker just suffered some strained muscles in his hip and could be back on the field as early as the Divisional round next weekend.

Ninkovich landed hard on his hip in the 2nd quarter of Sunday's 28-0 season finale against the Dolphins, and was down for quite a while before being helped off the field.  He was slow to walk off and was later seen struggling to get down the stairs to the locker room, which was a bad sign for a guy who has been an impact player for this defense.

He's been instrumental in their pass rush this season, creating frequent pressure while also accumulating 8 sacks - the highest total of his career as well as forcing five fumbles and recovering four.

For the most part the Patriots escaped the regular season relatively unscathed and are in decent shape personnel-wise heading into the playoffs.  Up until now they've been pretty unlucky, but fortunately it seems like Ninkovich may be back sooner than some had feared, which is a nice change of fortune considering the hands they've been dealt injury-wise throughout much of the season.