Vra­bel gets 1st crack coach­ing against Belichick, Pa­tri­ots

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sports -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Vra­bel won three Su­per Bowl rings over eight sea­sons with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. He even caught eight passes — all for touch­downs and all thrown by Tom Brady.

Then Bill Belichick traded the line­backer away to Kansas City in 2009.

“We didn’t talk for a cou­ple months, maybe a year,” Vra­bel said. “Then we be­came friends, and I used him as a re­source when I started my coach­ing ca­reer, and still talk to him a lot now. This week we’re com­peti­tors.”

In his first sea­son as an NFL head coach with Ten­nessee, Vra­bel gets his first crack at both his old coach and for­mer team Sun­day when the Ti­tans (4-4) host the Pa­tri­ots (7-2).

The men share some of the same philoso­phies about foot­ball, though not per­son­al­i­ties.

Ti­tans cor­ner­back Lo­gan Ryan, who spent his first four sea­sons in New Eng­land, says Vra­bel’s also younger and taller than Belichick. Vra­bel may dress a bit bet­ter too dur­ing games, and Ryan sees some other sim­i­lar­i­ties.

“They’re hard-nosed. They care about the fun­da­men­tals,” Ryan said.

For his part, Belichick says Vra­bel will be a great coach with his pas­sion and foot­ball knowl­edge as a player eas­ily car­ry­ing over. Belichick also be­lieves Vra­bel de­serves to be rec­og­nized in the Pa­tri­ots Hall of Fame and yes, the Nashville na­tive cheers for Vra­bel and the Ti­tans ev­ery game ex­cept this one.

“It will be the Pa­tri­ots against the Ti­tans,” Belichick said. “That’s what it will be.”

The Pa­tri­ots have won six straight af­ter beat­ing Green Bay 31-17 last week. They also have won the past seven against the Ti­tans, in­clud­ing playoffs, with the most re­cent a 35-14 romp in the divi­sional round last Jan­uary. The Ti­tans snapped a three-game skid Mon­day night with a 28-14 win in Dal­las.


Only a trio re­mains of those who played along­side Vra­bel dur­ing his ten­ure in New Eng­land: Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and spe­cial teams cap­tain Matt Slater. Brady spent eight sea­sons with Vra­bel from 2001-08. Gostkowski ar­rived in 2006, and Slater was a rookie dur­ing Vra­bel’s fi­nal sea­son in 2008 be­fore be­ing traded.

“His body can do it longer than mine could at the po­si­tion that he plays,” Vra­bel said of Brady.


The three-time MVP will play his 300th game, in­clud­ing the post­sea­son, on Sun­day. Brady will join Brett Favre as the only quar­ter­backs to reach that mark. The Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back needs four TD passes to pass Pey­ton Man­ning (579) for most TD passes in NFL his­tory for reg­u­lar sea­son and post­sea­son com­bined.

James Ken­ney / As­so­ci­ated Press

Ti­tans coach Mike Vra­bel won three Su­per Bowl rings play­ing line­backer and goal-line pass threat for Bill Belichick in New Eng­land. Now the rookie head coach gets his first crack at his for­mer coach when Vra­bel’s Ti­tans host for­mer team­mate Tom Brady and the Pa­tri­ots in a game Ten­nessee des­per­ately needs.

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