Patriots stalwart Rob Ninkovich is reading between the lines and doesn’t like what he’s hearing from Bill Belichick.
Belichick spoke glowingly about 49ers tight end George Kittle this week ahead of New England’s matchup with the 49ers.
“Kittle is a great player,” Belichick said. “He does everything well. I’d put him right at the top of the league there, period. His ability to run, catch, get open, after the catch, block, he does everything at a high level. He’s as good as anybody that I’ve coached or as good as anybody that we’ve played against.”
Ninkovich, a linebacker for the Patriots from 2009-16, saw the comment as a shot at his former teammate Rob Gronkowski. After a mini-retirement, the Patriots traded Gronkowski to the Buccaneers this offseason to join Tom Brady.
“I don’t get why he is doing that,” Ninkovich told WEEI on Thursday. “It seems like a little shot. It seems like a little jab… I just think it may be a slight little jab there, which seems a little unnecessary. But, Kittle is good. You can’t argue with the fact that Kittle is the best tight end in the game right now. I personally think he is. He is better than [Travis] Kelce in the running game.
“He can block, he’s tough. He has a little bit of craziness to him where if he’s going to get hit he is going to jump up and scream a little bit. For me, I like him as the No. 1 tight end in the league right now. Best ever? It’s still Gronk to me.”
After a slow start in Tampa Bay, the 31-year-old Gronkowski broke out with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 38-10 rout of the Packers on Sunday.
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