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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Vrabel Vital to Patriots



Monday, July 31, 2006

By CHRIS KENNEDY
ckennedy@repub.com

FOXBORO - Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the New England Patriots defense over the last few seasons has been Mike Vrabel's ability to handle anything and everything thrown his way.

He established himself as a quality outside linebacker during his first four-plus years in Foxboro, then midway through last season moved inside alongside Tedy Bruschi and helped save a fast sinking ship.

"I don't think Mike Vrabel got enough credit," Bruschi said after a weekend training camp practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think he is a bit overlooked for what he does. I thought he was the MVP of the defense last year, to tell you the truth.

"He is vital to our communication on the field, his leadership (is important). If I have a question, he's pretty much the guy I'm going to ask, let's put it that way."

Vrabel, who did not start so much as one game in the four seasons he spent with Pittsburgh before joining the Patriots as a free agent in 2001, is on the move again. He is sliding back to the outside, this time to fill the void left by free agent departee Willie McGinest. He should play on the left side or behind defensive end Ty Warren in the team's 3-4 defense, with Rosevelt Colvin on the opposite side, playing in back of All-Pro Richard Seymour.

Regardless of his role, Vrabel has become a more significant part of the defense with each passing season.

"To be a good leader you can't go out there and just talk about it and say, 'I'm going to be a better leader,'" Vrabel said. "You gotta go out there and work and be productive. You gotta show up every day and let people know you're ready to work and willing to put the team first."

His teammates seem convinced.

"Mike's a player, whatever situation you put him in, linebacker, inside, outside, tight end, he'll be fine," Colvin said.

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