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Current Patriots Share Stories on Titans Coach Mike Vrabel

Posted Feb 1, 2018

Mike Vrabel played eight seasons with the New England Patriots, from 2001-08. Three of his teammates are still on the team, and owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and DC Matt Patricia were all with the team when Vrabel played and they’re in Minnesota for Super Bowl LII. Titans Online asked them all about the new Titans head coach.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – New Titans coach Mike Vrabel played 14 NFL seasons, but he spent most of his career with the New England Patriots.

Vrabel played from 2001-08 with the Patriots, and he won three Super Bowl rings with the team.

Three of his Vrabel’s teammates are still on the team, and in Minnesota for Super Bowl LII. Titans Online asked all three about Vrabel. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia also fielded questions about Vrabel this week from Titans Online.

Below is what they said:

(Vrabel played in 125 games for the Patriots, and he was a menacing linebacker and special teams ace. Vrabel was also a favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady’s near the goal-line, lining up as a tight end. Vrabel has an uncanny stat-line catching footballs. In his career, which spanned from 1997-2010, Vrabel caught 12 passes for 12 touchdowns, including two in Super Bowls).

Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater:

“In my rookie year, I was playing scout team safety and they wanted the look a certain way, and I think I messed the look up. He pulled me out, and he said, ‘If you are not going to get it right, young fella, then let me get in there and do it.' And I think to me, the thing that stood out about that is, here’s a guy who at that time was in his 12th year in the National Football League, and he was so committed to the team, and the team success, that he was willing to get in there on the scout team to make sure the team had the right look.”

Slater called Vrabel “a tremendous leader.”

“His football IQ is through the roof,” Slater said. “He is one of the smartest football players I have ever been around, or for that matter, one of the smartest football minds I have ever been around. And I think you’ll see that in the coming months and years.

“He’s his own man, and one of the best pure leaders I have ever been around as far as holding guys accountable, and making sure when we have a goal and objective we are all going to be on board to get that accomplished. I have so much respect for him, and consider myself blessed to have played with a guy like that.”

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski:

“Mike gave me the nickname 'Meat' when I was a rookie from the movie 'Bull Durham,' because I played baseball in college. Mike was an unbelievable teammate, and he has that Vince Vaughn-like personality where he funny, he is smart, he is witty. You can tell he is usually the smartest guy in the room. He is very intimidating at first, and once you get to know him he is the man.”

Gostkowski said he’s excited Vrabel got the job in Tennessee.

“He is the guy everybody said, ‘That guy will be a coach one day.' I’m sure he’ll do well because he’s a very bright, smart guy.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady:

“He has a great personality, has great command. He is extremely intelligent. He was an incredible player and competitor. Unfortunately he picked a terrible college to go to, but not everybody can get into Michigan, so I understand he had to go to Ohio State. So that is probably the only negative thing I could say about him.”

“Mike is a great leader,” Brady continued. “He’s just a great guy, great person, and he has a great family. He has been a great friend since I have known him.”

Brady on Vrabel’s ability catching passes:

“Mike, what did he have -- 12 touchdowns, 12 receptions? He was actually very good down in that area. Mike had a great first step. He could kind of slide his way through the line of scrimmage and he had great hands. I loved throwing it to him down there. We’ve had some good goal line receivers but I don’t think anyone will have that kind of stat-line again.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick:

I asked Belichick about Vrabel during Super Bowl Opening Night.

Here’s what he said from the podium:

“I am on record on Mike. I love Mike, he’s a great guy. But I am really focused on this game, though.”

So I looked back at recent Belichick transcripts, and here’s what he said about Vrabel after he was hired by the Titans:

“Well, I mean I've talked about this quite a bit. I think Mike's a very smart football player. He worked hard, trained hard, loved football. I have a ton of respect for Mike and everything he's done and how hard he's worked and what he stands for. In all honesty I wasn't thinking too much about that in those meetings. I was thinking about whatever it was we had to do to compete against the team we were playing against. I'm sure those were my thoughts at the time, but Mike's a tremendous person, coach. He was a great player here and he certainly has a ton of attributes that would be a great addition to any organization - leadership, work ethic, toughness; all those things.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft:

“Mike was awesome. I think he’ll be great. He commanded respect in the locker room. First of all, he has a presence. He works very hard. I’ll never forget how tough he was, and I’ll never forget a time he got injured and they put a plate in his arm. I thought he’d be gone for the season. I think they said he would be back in six weeks, and he was back in three weeks, and he was playing at a high level.

“He had a mental toughness and a competitive spirit, and he has an edge to him. I think he is going to be a great head coach.”

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:

“Honestly, just give you real quick on Mike: I love Mike. He is one of my favorites. I coached him for a while. He is extremely smart, and he is even a better guy. He is just a great person. But for me it is really all about Philly right now, and just getting ready for the Eagles.”