The pass rush and coverage work in concert with each other on every defensive play. That's something that Bill Belichick has harped on for years when breaking down New England's pass defense.
So, it's no surprise that Patriots co-captain Rob Ninkovich seemed pretty excited when talking Tuesday morning about New England's offseason addition of shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis.
"We got the best corner in the league coming in," the defensive end said, pulling himself away from an early-April weight room workout to spend a few minutes with a dozen-plus New England media members. "That's always a good thing for a defensive end like myself, just give me a little bit more time (to get to the quarterback) and I'll be happy to use that."
Revis was the key to the Patriots offseason moves to date and will also obviously be a key to the team's weekly game plans this fall.
"You can do whatever you want with him," Ninkovich said. "You can put him on the best receiver, tight end, whoever, and say 'Hey, go cover this guy and he can do it.' Whenever you have a guy that talented, it's always great as far as defensive schemes and stuff like that."
Touching on a wide variety of topics in his nearly 20 minutes answering questions just a few feet from the new FieldTurf that's being installed inside Gillette Stadium, Ninkovich had a more humorous reaction to the Patriots addition of cornerback Brandon Browner.
"The guy is bigger than me," he said of the 6-4, 221-pound cover man. "When I first met him, I didn't know he was a corner. He's a big, physical guy. He's tall, long. Again, he's another piece you can put on the field anywhere to cover a guy and shut him down. That's another great addition that we have to our secondary."
Ninkovich said that a number of Patriots teammates have begun to sprinkle into Gillette a couple weeks in advance of the official start of the offseason program, which comes the week of April 21. He's been working out with fellow captain Jerod Mayo, who's coming back from a torn pectoral that landed the linebacker on IR last season.
For Ninkovich, who was thankful to be healthy yet again last season and talked with pride about the fact that he hasn't missed a game since 2009, the work this spring is all about making sure he has a better 2014 campaign than his 2013, which included 93 tackles (third on the team), eight sacks (second on the team), two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
With that in mind, and showing sweat marks on his shirt from his morning workout, Ninkovich relayed a motto that his ironworker father emphasizes.
"I like pushing myself," he said. "Like my dad always said, 'pain is your friend.' There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself and being in a position that you test your limits."
For a New England leader like Ninkovich that process begins in early April, two weeks before the offseason program, to ensure that the defensive end is ready to carry his share of the load on a retooled Patriots defense when the real work begins in September