Monday, October 23, 2023

Mike Vrabel Credits 'Team First' Focus for New England Patriots Hall of Fame Induction


Former New England Patriots linebacker, and current Tennessee Titans head coach, Mike Vrabel has been inducted as the 34th member of the team's Hall of Fame.


OCT 22, 2023 9:00 AM EDT

FOXBORO — Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel may currently be controlling the sidelines in Nashville. However, there is still a great deal of New England Patriots ‘Blue’ in his bloodline.

Vrabel, who was inducted on Saturday as the 34th inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame, remains forever grateful for the eight seasons he spent in New England. Accordingly, he insisted on savoring the moment of being one of the select few to earn the organization's highest honor.

"I promise I'm not going to take this for granted," Vrabel said after donning his Hall of Fame red jacket for the first time. "Because I think that spending eight years here, and the success that we had, I think you could all say that we took it a little bit for granted ... You go to work, you coach football, you go to your next stop, and you lose sight of what this actually was and what it meant, and I don't want anyone to do that."

Just in case, Patriots team owner and CEO Robert Kraft reminded both Vrabel and all of Patriots Nation about where he is likely to be most fondly remembered. 

"You might be a Titan in the industry now, but to us you'll always be a Patriot," Kraft said. 

Vrabel joined the Patriots as a free agent in 2001. His signing remains one of the greatest in team history. Although he finished his playing career as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Vrabel will forever be remembered as a Patriot. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX), as well as a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2007. He was selected as a member of the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, as well as the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team (2000–2009).

Throughout his time in New England, Vrabel defined the word ‘versatility.’ He primarily started at both inside and outside linebacker. Unsurprisingly, he mentioned fellow positional teammates — and Patriots Hall of Farmers — Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest with helping him to quickly learn and enact New England’s playbook.

"Coming here, as a guy that never started before, I wanted to prove that I could do it," Vrabel said. "I wanted to show guys like Bruschi, and McGinest that I belonged here. I'm so proud of what we accomplished together." 

New England Patriots Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Mike Vrabel (far left) and Dante Scarnecchia (bottom right)

Photo Cred: CBS Sports


Though Vrabel earned his induction through his prowess at linebacker, he often aligned on offense in short-yardage and goal-line situations. As a Patriot, Vrabel caught eight regular-season passes and two more in the playoffs. All 10 of his receptions were for touchdowns, including scoring receptions in back-to-back Super Bowl wins over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXVIII and Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

In fact, even Patriots coach Bill Belichick was caught by surprise with regard to the success the team had in using Vrabel as a pass catcher. "I kept saying 'They know we're not going to run behind Mike' [as a tight end,] Belichick said at the dais with a quizzical grin. "This can't keep working. But it did," the Pats coach added as he knowingly glanced at Vrabel sitting near him. 

"He [Vrabel] was one of the most efficient receivers of all time," said, Kraft while offering his take on Vrabel's pass-catching prowess. "He was also a pretty good linebacker too.

Still, Vrabel remains cognizant that his success, along with that of the Patriots' dynasty, is due largely in part to the true and total concept of "team" embodied by both coaches and players. 

"Nothing was more important than the team," Vrabel said of his time in New England. "Not your feelings, not your stats, not your paycheck, not what you’ve done in the past.”

In turn, Belichick echoed those sentiments when speaking about Vrabel, as well as coach Dante Scarnecchia, who was also honored as a Patriots Hall of Fame enshrinee earlier in the ceremony.

"The way that both Dante and Mike felt about the team and their unselfishness and their commitment to the team — T-E-A-M team — in every sense of the word, puts them on a level with very few others," Belichick said

Accordingly, the lessons Belichick imparted to his players are the same which Vrabel is now teaching to his Titans roster. Like his mentor before him, the sixth-year head coach is putting his "team" first. 

“Whether you agreed or disagreed with him, you ended up respecting him ... because you know that every decision he made was with the best interest of the team in mind," Vrabel said. "That's what I try to do as a coach now in Tennessee every day"

While Vrabel will return to his duties as Titans head coach almost immediately following Saturday's ceremony, the 47-year-old was honored to be welcomed back into the Patriots fold -- even if only for a brief few hours. With the Patriots taking a unique approach to the induction process, fans are allowed to make the final selection for enshrinement via online fan voting. Despite getting the call on his seventh season as a Hall finalist, Vrabel knows the value of the well-deserved red jacket he will proudly wear from this day forth. 

"Maybe the seventh time was the charm, Vrabel said with a laugh. "I'm really appreciative of this ... This is an unbelievable honor."

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