Friday, September 29, 2006

Eat Crow 'Draftniks': Whitner Honored

Posted Sep 29th 2006 6:58AM by Gene Battaglia

Remember when the Bills were blasted in April, for their high selection of safety Donte Whitner at #8 overall? No one, and I mean no one, liked the pick. Either you hated the pick, or you hedged (myself included), saying "he could pan out...but why not trade down?"

I would like my crow with some Tabasco sauce, please.

Whitner was honored yesterday as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month. He has started the last two games, had an interception in the loss at New England, and his break-up of a two-point conversation attempt by Miami closed the deal for the Bills.

Overall, he's seventh on the team in tackles. Not a bad start.

Now, would the Bills please acknowledge he's starter? As of Friday morning, the depth chart, as seen here lists Whitner as third string. Matt Bowen is still listed as the starter. Whitner is the real starter, and looks to be a contributor for years to come.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whitner Named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month

by Chris Brown, Lead Journalist

Last Updated: 9/28/2006 3:40 PM ET

It's probably safe to say that Mel Kiper and the other NFL draft gurus aren't second guessing the Buffalo Bills selection of Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick last spring anymore.

Whitner was named the NFL Rookie of the Month for his play in September.

"It's a great honor to get," said Whitner. "But I'd rather be 3-0 right now. I'm going to go out there and give it my all next month also and the rest of the season and see what happens."

If there's one satisfying aspect about the award, he believes it answers all the criticism Buffalo received for taking Whitner with their top pick last April.

"(The Bills) picked me and I'm glad they picked me," Whitner said. "But I still want to go out there and prove people wrong and prove the Bills right."

The Ohio State product got off to a good start in Week One as he recorded an interception in his first NFL game at New England off of Tom Brady. Unfortunately his return for a touchdown was called back on penalty. The scoring play would've given Buffalo the lead and likely the win in Week One. He also had eight tackles in the tightly fought contest.

"I've felt good out there," said Whitner. "It's really no different from college to the NFL. Everybody makes a big deal about being a rookie. But if you're poised and you know what you're doing out there, being a rookie really means nothing."

"Donte is a smart football player," said defensive captain London Fletcher. "For the most part he's doing an excellent job and the coaches are doing an excellent job of getting him prepared."

In Week Two Whitner made his first NFL start at Miami and was part of a dominant defensive effort as he contributed seven tackles and broke up a Miami two-point conversion attempt in the end zone. The Bills defense held Miami scoreless until less than two minutes remained in the game.

Whitner posted his second straight start last week and was credited with three tackles in the effort. He stands seventh on the team in tackles and is tied for the team lead for interceptions.

"He's talented," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's fast. He likes to play the game and he'll hit you. Those are all things that translate well to our sport. He's got good size. He's learning how to play, but one of the reasons we did like him is because he likes football. He likes to talk about football, look at it, study it and he likes to play. He's just learning and he's going to get better every week. I believe that."

The Bills have had just two NFL Rookies of the Month prior to Whitner's honor this week. Linebacker Gabe Northern won the award back in November of the 1996 season, and Sam Cowart won it in October of 1998.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lowdermilk Becomes Highest Paid


Evolution of the Left Tackle

By Michael Lewis

Excerpted from September 25, 2006 issue

…The new market officially opened on Feb. 1, 1993, the day after the Super Bowl. The real shock was the dollar value the new market assigned to offensive linemen. Just a few years earlier the Bengals had told Munoz that no offensive linemen was worth half a million dollars a year. Now the Denver Broncos quickly signed a couple of free agent linemen, Brian Habib and Don Maggs, for three times that amount. A few days later Vikings center Kirk Lowdermilk moved to the Indianapolis Colts for $2 million a year, then groped for the adjective to describe his feelings. “Stunned is not the word,” he said. “There is no word in the English language to describe it…”

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Draft Doubters Motivate Whitner

By John Wawrow

Associated Press

September 21, 2006

ORCHARD PARK— Donte Whitner hasn’t forgotten how the NFL draft gurus — and that includes you, Mel Kiper — criticized the Buffalo Bills for selecting the strong safety too early last spring.

“You just kind of store that,” Whitner said, referring specifically to Kiper, ESPN’s longtime draft analyst. “You want to prove those guys wrong.”

Two games and two starts into his first NFL season, Whitner has not looked out of place in a young defensive unit that had seven sacks and keyed Buffalo’s 16-6 win at Miami last weekend. Rushed into a starting role after veteran Matt Bowen was hurt in training camp, Whitner has 14 tackles and one interception heading into Buffalo’s home-opener against the New York Jets on Sunday.

“He’s talented. He’s fast. He likes to play the game, and he’ll hit you,” coach Dick Jauron said. “Those are all things that translate to our sport.”

While Jauron cautioned that Whitner is still learning, what’s impressive is how quickly the youngest player on the team’s roster — he turned 21 in July — has picked up the Bills defensive scheme in a relatively short period of time.

“Coming from Ohio State and playing in a lot of big games has really prepared me for this level,” he said. “I don’t really get rattled.”

Whitner speaks with a matter-of-fact, look-you-dead-in-the-eye confidence that most rookies lack. What he’s not is overconfident, rarely drawing attention to himself on or off the field.

“With Donte, he’s a very mature player. He’s young, but he’s mature,” veteran linebacker London Fletcher said.

Added defensive coordinator Perry Fewell: “The thing about Donte is, once he gets it, he’s got it.”

Whitner credited two of his former coaches for playing key roles in his development. First there was Ted Ginn Sr. in high school, followed by Mel Tucker, the former Ohio State assistant, who’s now the Cleveland Browns defensive backs coach.

Referring to Tucker, Whitner said: “He used to call down from the (coach’s) box and tell me, ‘Go out there and make plays because you’re the best player on this field.’ He always believed in me before anybody else did.”

Now it’s making believers out of everyone else who projected Whitner of being a mid-range first-round pick.

Count Ralph Wilson among the impressed. Following the Miami game, the Bills owner approached Whitner at his locker to inform the player the team made the right decision in taking him in the draft.

“He said, ‘You showed them today,”’ Whitner said. “I’m not saying I’m better than anyone or anything. But for those guys to say I was a reach, I want to go out and prove myself. And at the end of the season we’ll compare and we’ll see.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fox Takes Kearse's Roster Spot

Marc Narducci

Posted on Wed, Sep. 20, 2006

The Eagles soon will find out if Jevon Kearse is irreplaceable.

The defensive end, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury in Sunday's 30-24 overtime loss to the New York Giants, was placed on the injured-reserve list yesterday.

To fill Kearse's roster spot, the Eagles promoted cornerback Dustin Fox from the practice squad.

The addition of a cornerback to replace Kearse was expected, because the Eagles are deep along the defensive line. There had been speculation that they would sign cornerback Donald Strickland, who played three games with them last season and was released on the final cut this year.

Instead, the Eagles promoted Fox, who was a third-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 but spent the year on injured reserve with a broken arm.

After the Vikings released him at the end of the preseason, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Fox was signed to the Eagles' practice squad on Sept. 4.

"I think I can contribute some immediate depth," Fox said in a statement released by the Eagles. "Obviously, we are kind of hurting at corner right now. Guys have been getting nicked up a little bit. So that's the main goal."

According to Fox's agent, Neil Cornrich, there was serious interest in Fox after the Vikings released him.

"Almost half the teams in the league inquired about him," Cornrich said yesterday in a phone interview.

Cornrich said that Fox picked the Eagles after receiving a persuasive pitch from Howie Roseman, the vice president of football administration.

"Howie articulated to us very well why he felt the Eagles were the right situation for Dustin," Cornrich said.

Fox, who had 217 career tackles and seven interceptions at Ohio State, has good bloodlines. His uncle, Tim Fox, was a star defensive back at Ohio State and a former first-round draft choice of the New England Patriots who played 11 NFL seasons. His brother Derek played football for Penn State and for the Indianapolis Colts.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kampman Defensive Player of the Week

September 18, 2006

Defensive Player of the Week

Aaron Kampman, DE, Green Bay. Sometimes great days get lost when teams get beat up on defense. But this one shouldn't. Kampman terrorized Drew Brees of the Saints, sacking him three times, and he added two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. I could have given this award to the Buffalo defense, or to Trent Cole of the Eagles (before he had the stupid kicking penalty late in the Eagles' disastrous loss), or to Ed Reed of the Ravens, or to the Chargers for stifling the Titans, or to about six guys on the Bears. But Kampman was a monster in defeat.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Where's the Colts' Clark?

September 13, 2006

by Reggie Hayes

INDIANAPOLIS -- Dallas Clark's unofficial audition for the NFL's version of "Where's Waldo?" looks like it's off to a great start.

Whenever the Indianapolis Colts' offense lines up, Clark will be in the picture. The trick is to find him.

He's listed as a tight end, and that's a good place to start. But he sometimes lines up in the slot, sometimes at wide receiver and, in a relative new twist, as a blocking halfback.

"I'll do whatever; just don't ask me to be the quarterback," Clark said. "He's got a hard job."

While the world was contemplating the brotherly battle of Manning vs. Manning during the Colts' season opening win Sunday over the New York Giants, Clark was jumping from here to there and back again. He even ended up in one of his favorite spots -- the end zone -- on the receiving end of a Peyton Manning strike.

"I just try to be accountable and dependable and let them know they can count on me," Clark said. "When my number's called, I try to do something with it. If I get more pass calls, whatever, it's no different really. You just have to go out and execute."

Many of the questions from reporters on Wednesday at the Colts complex concerned the running game. The Colts' first game without Edgerrin James produced low to moderate numbers, with Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combining for 55 yards and a 2.4 yards per carry average. Addai showed some promising outside speed and Rhodes dived in for a touchdown, a short-yardage score that sometimes tripped up the Colts in the past. Most observers couldn't get past the absence of Edge.

But the Colts' offense showed glimpses of some new formations and the use of different players in different places -- including tackle Darrell Reid lining up as a fullback and tackling Charlie Johnson going out for a pass -- as it strives to remain fresh and unpredictable.

The most versatile player is Clark, who caught three passes for 39 yards in the win, including Manning's only touchdown pass. On that play, Clark lined up at tight end on the right side, and then displayed a great sense of position and focus. Manning rolled out right and fired. Clark leaped high on the right side of the end zone, catching the pass and touching both feet down in the end zone before landing and falling backwards.

"It was good," Clark said. "Anything to help out."

Clark's aw-shucks demeanor wins him plenty of friends in the locker room. As you might guess by his appreciation of Manning's role ("He's got a hard job"), Clark knows he's not a superstar on the level of Manning, receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne or defensive end Dwight Freeney. But, if Clark performs well, he'll be invaluable to an offense that might need a few unexpected plays while waiting for the running game to develop.

It's instructive to note that when Manning was discussing the play-action pass and how it works, the three receivers he mentioned were Harrison, Wayne and Clark. It's a good sign for a tight end when a quarterback categorizes him as one of his primary targets.

Colts coach Tony Dungy said he's pleased with the development of all three of his regular tight ends: Clark, Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher. Clark is in his fourth season with the Colts.

"Dallas is really developing as an all-around player and a point-of-attack blocker as well,' Dungy said. "But, he's the guy that we play out in the slot the most."

Clark's size and demeanor make him perfect for passes into linebacker territory. He's 6-foot-3, 252 pounds, solid and fearless. He fills a role out of the slot that was the former main domain of Brandon Stokley, who has been out with an ankle injury. Even last year, with Stokley healthy, Clark sometimes was the choice for the slot.

His new responsibilities as an occasional blocking back make him a potential threat to catch passes out of the backfield, too.

"We have some different looks and we can give some certain looks we like," Clark said. "That keeps them guessing which way we're running the ball and who's running the ball. We're doing a lot of new things and it's a good dynamic for the offense and for the running game."

Clark enjoys the new plays and positions in his repertoire, but says his potentially increased role isn't the result of any physical transformation.

"I still have the same five gears," he said.

That's five gears for at least four positions.

Where's Dallas? Everywhere and anywhere. The Colts just hope he continues to turn up in the end zone.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Strong Performance by Kampman

Red-Zone Defense, Running Game Provide Building Blocks

by Mike Spofford,

posted 09/11/2006

Head Coach Mike McCarthy wasn't about to sugarcoat his team's 26-0 loss to the Chicago Bears, but there were two legitimate positives that the Packers can build from as the 2006 season continues.

One was the team's red-zone defense, which kept the Bears out of the end zone in four trips inside the Green Bay 20-yard line.

After hitting on the long touchdown pass to open the game, the Bears' offense did not get into the end zone again. In four red-zone possessions, the Packers got an interception by linebacker Nick Barnett and forced three field goals. A fourth field goal came from just outside the red zone, and Chicago's only other touchdown came on special teams with the fourth-quarter punt return.

"Once we got through the first quarter, the defense played some good, sound football," McCarthy said in his Monday news conference. "I think they converted their first three third downs, and after that they were 1 for 11. I think that speaks volumes about the way they played."

Perhaps the strongest defensive performance was turned in by end Aaron Kampman, who recorded seven tackles (four solo), including a sack and four hits on the quarterback.

It was Kampman's pressure that led to Rex Grossman's bad throw that was picked off by Barnett, and his sack forced the Bears to settle for their first field goal early in the second quarter.

"I thought he played well, played very well," McCarthy said. "He was very active in the run game, (he) pressured.

"He brings his lunch box to work every day. He's a true pro."

The other building block was the modest success of the running game, and particularly the play of Ahman Green. Coming back from a torn quadriceps tendon that cut his 2005 season short, Green rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the first time since Nov. 14, 2004, against Minnesota.

Granted, 48 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was somewhat out of reach. But after limited work in the preseason, the fact that Green was able to handle the workload for a full game and still appear strong in the fourth quarter was an important sign for the offense.

"He said he felt good," McCarthy said. "There's a fine line there. You want to push him as far as he can go because he is a play-maker. He's one of our key play-makers, and we do want to run the football.

"The only negative I had with the running game is we only ran it 20 times. If you want to have a big day you need to get up into the 30s. If that's 20-25 for him and 10 for the other guys, that's great."

With the ground game as a whole, the Packers seemed to execute the new zone-blocking scheme better than they had during the preseason, though it still needs to be more crisp, particularly in short-yardage situations.

"We had good looks," McCarthy said. "We felt (with) the game plan we had good angles."

That said, McCarthy pointed out the pass protection was erratic, and the breakdowns in other areas were scrutinized in film study with each of the different units. The focus is on learning from the mistakes rather than dwelling on them.

"Our direction and the leadership Coach McCarthy is giving us and trickling down to us as veterans is, hey, let's not overreact, let's not under-react as well," Kampman said. "But realize there's a lot out in front of us. Let's clean up what we can clean up."

Davis Dons Label of Hero

Crucial stop sparks rally

By Albert Breer/ MetroWest Daily News

Monday, September 11, 2006

FOXBORO - Don Davis knew what might happen, that he had to be ready for play action or a quick-hitting pass.

He also knew - on fourth-and-1 fromthe Patriots’ 7-yard line in the third quarter of yesterday’s 19-17 win - what probably would.

“Sometimes there’s a trick pass,” said Davis. “But you know what? It’s their bigs against our bigs.”

And no one came up bigger than Davis. With the Bills leading 17-7 and threatening to put the game out of reach, the reserve linebacker filled the guard-tackle gap, stymied Willis McGahee a half-yard short of the marker and got the Pats the game-turning shot they needed.

The offense responded with a 12-play, 93-yard drive to cut the deficit to 17-14 and the rest is in the books - a win that probably wouldn’t have been if not for the big stop.

“A fourth down stop is like a turnover,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said. “Those plays don’t go down as turnovers, but they really are. It is no different if you intercepted a pass or recovered a fumble.”

Because of the spot it came in, this one may have been even bigger than that.

Had Buffalo gotten the yard it needed, it would have had three shots to cover 6 yards and push the edge to 24-7. Even a chip-shot field goal would have made it 20-7.

“We wanted to make a statement,” Davis said. “And we hadn’t, we started out not playing like we’d have liked to. But that was a critical point in the game and if you can make those plays at critical points, you’re able to give your offense and your team a chance to win.”

Davis, predictably, was bashful in taking credit.

The way he explains it, McGahee was running a simple lead play off left tackle. The kind of play that calls for inside-the-box players to man-up.

And because the linemen did, Davis’ path to the 234-pound tailback was without interruption.

“It’s just a simple handoff, giving it to McGahee, they got the big fullback (Daimon) Shelton coming in and it’s just power football,” Davis said. “You got Vince Wilfork and all those guys up front, (Richard) Seymour, Jarvis Green. They held them up and my job was just to go in and make the tackle.”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mike Wahle Team Captain

Foxhole: Comments from Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox following the team's practice.

September 7, 2006

On team captains: On offense, we've got Jake Delhomme and Mike Wahle. On defense, we have Mike Minter and Dan Morgan. Then on special teams Karl Hankton. Those were voted by the team.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mangino's contract a sweet deal

Posted on Wed, Sep. 06, 2006

Bob Lutz, Eagle Sports Columnist

I think Mark Mangino has done a good job in his four-plus years as football coach at Kansas.

But he hasn't done the kind of great job that his unbelievable contract extension -- which includes a raise from $650,000 annually to $1.5 million -- indicates.

The Jayhawks are 20-29 under Mangino. And while it's true he didn't inherit much from the previous coach, Terry Allen, since when does 20-29 earn that kind of raise?

I understand KU's desire for stability with the football program. And I think there's a chance Mangino will get it done over the long haul.

But what happened to rewarding performance?

The perks in Mangino's contract include two top-of-the-line automobiles and memberships to two country clubs.

I want his agent.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pop quiz for NFL addicted

September 04, 2006

By Doug Robinson
Deseret Morning News

Are you ready for the opening of the 2006 NFL season, now just four days away? Take this handy quiz to find out (warning: some of the answers might seem subjective, but that's only because they're my opinion).

Who are the best pure football players in the NFL? (a) Brian Urlacher; (b) Larry Johnson; (c) Mike Vrabel; (d) Dwight Freeney; (e) Marvin Harrison. Answer: All of the above.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ready, Willing and Vrabel

Outside linebacker, inside linebacker, even tight end -- no matter what the Patriots need, he's ready and willing

By Jackie MacMullan, Globe Staff September 3, 2006

FOXBOROUGH -- He forgets sometimes.

Happened just last week. Mike Vrabel broke from the huddle and positioned himself at inside linebacker, but when Tom Brady dropped back to pass, Vrabel instinctively reverted to the coverage responsibilities of the outside linebacker position, where he has established his reputation as an agitator and intimidator.

"I was in the wrong coverage," Vrabel confessed. "I had to stop for a second and look at myself. Then I said, 'Oh well,' and moved on."

He has been Patriots coach Bill Belichick's Everyman for five seasons now, willing and able to handle special teams assignments, rotating linebacker positions, and some occasional trickery at tight end. He is no decoy during his intermittent offensive forays, but a bona fide receiver specializing in touchdowns (8 receptions, 8 scores ). He is everything Belichick loves in a football player: smart, fearless, strong, well-conditioned, and versatile.

Yet sometimes you wonder whether his versatility betrays him. No one was happier than Vrabel in 2003 when he was flying in from the outside, recording a career- and team-high 9.5 sacks. They were the most sacks recorded by a Patriot in the Belichick era, and the most in team history since Willie McGinest recorded 9.5 in 1996. Vrabel's quickness and ability to read offenses made him a natural for the position.

But last season, when Ted Johnson abruptly retired, Roman Phifer did not return, and Tedy Bruschi began his long road back from a stroke, Vrabel began preparing for the inevitable. He played the final 11 games of the regular season and playoffs at inside linebacker, and wound up leading the team in tackles with 114.

This season, Vrabel was supposed to return to his customary outside position, but with Bruschi recovering from a broken wrist, Vrabel has found himself on the inside again.

"I'm having fun, because it's different," Vrabel said. "It's a challenge. I look at it as a compliment the coaching staff believes they can move me inside and not have our defense fall off. But it could change."

When Bruschi returns, Vrabel will likely replace Tully Banta-Cain as a starting outside linebacker (along with Rosevelt Colvin), leaving Bruschi and newly signed veteran Junior Seau to handle the primary inside chores.
Simple enough? It isn't. Juggling various responsibilities for a complicated defensive scheme is harder than Vrabel makes it seem.

"It gets overlooked, what he's doing for us," said safety Rodney Harrison. "He has 10 sacks one year, and no Pro Bowl consideration. Then we ask him to come inside because we have injuries. He goes back outside, but then he's got to come back in again, and he never lets it affect his psyche.

"It would be easy to get discouraged. Another guy would be saying, 'If I'm inside, there's no way I'm getting 9 or 10 sacks. I had 10 sacks in '03, so this is going to make me look like I'm losing it. This is bad for my career.'

"Do you think for a second Mike Vrabel is going to say anything like that? Not a chance. He's thinking, 'I'm inside. Cool. Let's do some damage in here.' "

Making an impression

It's easy to identify Vrabel now as one of the cornerstones of the Patriots defense, a veteran with the experience and credentials to be a locker room leader. It's almost as easy to forget that he came to New England in 2001 as a relatively anonymous special teams player from the Steelers, a free agent on the fringe.

"He took the scenic route to the NFL," observed Seau. "He wasn't some first-round pick that was catered to. He was one of those fourth-and-1 guys whose career was always in the balance, who had to worry about being cut, about finding a way onto the field, about getting noticed.

"Guys like that don't take anything for granted, even after they've made it. But I'll tell you this much: After watching Mike up close these past few weeks, you wonder how this guy ever slipped through the cracks."

Vrabel can recall walking into the Patriots locker room the first day and encountering the towering presence of McGinest, who challenged anyone and everyone to outwork him in the weight room. Nor has he forgotten how badly he wanted to fit in -- at any position.

"I felt like I was trying to do too much when I first got here," he said.

"Kind of an eager beaver. It was really my first chance at playing, and I didn't want to lose out. Tedy told me, 'Just be you. Be smart. Be consistent. You don't have to impress anybody.' "

He did anyway, because he was such a quick study. Vrabel, who wants to be a coach someday, caught the attention of the veterans by mastering schemes, asking questions, even suggesting changes to the game plan.

"He's the smartest football player I've ever been on the field with," Harrison declared. "Like one of the coaches."

Because of that, teammates maintain, Vrabel is able to take certain liberties with the staff, including Belichick himself.

"The guy should have been a comedian," offered defensive end Jarvis Green. "We'll be sitting in meetings, and he'll come out with something that the rest of us might be thinking but would never say out loud.

"The other day, the coaches were laying out all the stuff they wanted us to do, and all of a sudden Mike is yelling, `What do you think we are? Your whipping boys?' I mean, I was thinking that, but saying it? I'll leave that to Mike."

He has become adept at knowing when to ease the tension with a wisecrack, or spice up the drudgery with a dig.

"I don't mind joking with Bill, and he doesn't mind telling me to shut the [expletive] up," Vrabel explained. "I do it because it breaks up the monotony, whether it's with Bill or someone else."

A leading man

With McGinest gone this year and Harrison missing most of last season, it was only logical that Vrabel would step up and assume some veteran leadership responsibilities. Richard Seymour, Bruschi, Harrison, and Vrabel are the defensive core the younger players look to for advice. According to Green, Vrabel entertains a steady stream of questions from rookies and young prospects throughout the preseason.

"They choose him," Green said, "because he treats them the way he'd like to be treated himself."

"I don't know how I got here [to a position of leadership]," Vrabel said with a shrug. ``I don't look at myself like that."

He has grown accustomed to a roster in flux, and that means adding new faces and subtracting old friends.

"Larry [Izzo] and I were saying the other day we're the only ones from the 2001 free agent class who are left," Vrabel said. "We're always changing here. The young guys have so many questions, but I tell them, 'Hey, it took me time to learn myself.'

"We all have our ways. The way Junior does things might be completely different than Tedy or myself. And right now, our roles haven't even really been defined."

This is nothing new for a linebacker who will go inside or outside, will score a touchdown or prevent one. Asked about Vrabel, Belichick smiled, then said, "I think Mike falls into that exceptionally versatile category."

The coach, not known for hyperbole, then rattled off Vrabel's strengths: smart, instinctive, runs well, good size, strong, powerful.

"The guy does a lot of things and he doesn't take long to get assignments down," Belichick continued. "He's able to do the techniques that need to be done for the position -- and he'll be happy to tell you that, too."

That is true. Mike Vrabel is proud to be the Everyman.

Sure beats the fringe free agent taking the scenic route.

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