Patriots

Mike Vrabel says Bill Belichick has been a 'great asset' during coaching career

Mike Vrabel says Bill Belichick has been a 'great asset' during coaching career

When Gary Tanguay and his "Tanguay Takes America" team set off for Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII last winter, they made sure to stop in Tennessee to meet up with old buddy Mike Vrabel. Did he ever make their trip worthwhile.

The Titans head coach will be the center of attention at different points this week as he and his team host the Patriots for joint practices. Vrabel is fresh off his first season as the man in charge, achieving a winning record (9-7) that included a resounding victory over the Patriots in Nashville. 

Vrabel and Belichick will be running the show this week leading up to their preseason game Saturday. But had it not been for Belichick — and a thaw in the relationship between Belichick and Vrabel about two years after Belichick traded Vrabel from New England to Kansas City — Vrabel might not have been in this position. 

When Vrabel decided to get into coaching, first as an assistant at Ohio State and then with the Texans, he said Belichick was a "great asset."

"Bill was obviously a big influence on my playing career just to help me improve," Vrabel told Tanguay. "I remember the [trade] call like it was yesterday. It was toward the end of February, [Belichick] called and said, 'Hey, traded you to Scott [Pioli] in Kansas City.' 

"I said, 'It sounds like I should probably call Scott.' I hung up the phone and we didn't talk for probably two years. Retired. Called him and talked about coaching. The relationship kind of picked back up from then, and he's been a great asset to me, my family, and just to help me work through situations. Talk ball. Work through things being a head coach."

Vrabel and Belichick are vastly different personalities. Vrabel probably isn't going to be accused, as other members of the Belichick coaching tree have been, of trying to be like his old head coach any time soon.

But Vrabel has picked up on one aspect of Belichick's coaching style that he believes is vital. 

"I think he's really intelligent," Vrabel said. "I think he cares. I think he has a good way of relating to guys. I think he coaches guys differently based on their personality, which is critical. I remember one time, I think Pepper Johnson and I were arguing about something and I went over and sat on the offensive side of the bench while they were out on the field. 

"Bill had coached Pepper and he'd been with me for about six years. He's like, 'You're sitting down here like a wide receiver pouting. Get over there and lets get going.' I kind of chuckled like, 'Yeah, that's probably a pretty good analogy.'"

Belichick and Vrabel have coached against each other before during joint training camp sessions. Two summers ago, at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, Vrabel was the defensive coordinator of the Texans going against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Those were physical practices, but the Vrabel-led defense didn't quite get under Brady's skin the way Vrabel apparently did during his playing career. 

Those talented units of the early 2000s featured not only edge defenders like Vrabel and Willie McGinest. But Ty Law was out there. Rodney Harrison was out there. Tedy Bruschi. Richard Seymour. They were loaded, and they gave Brady fits to the point that his tantrums would require some equipment maintenance between plays.  

Vrabel probably wouldn't mind if he could somehow elicit a similar reaction from the Patriots quarterback this week. 

"[There was] a good equipment manager that they had when Tom would slam his helmet and the wires and stuff would fall out of it and spray across the field," Vrabel told Tanguay. "They were quickly able to fix the coach-to-quarterback apparatus."

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Report: Dante Scarnecchia to help Patriots at NFL Combine despite retiring

Report: Dante Scarnecchia to help Patriots at NFL Combine despite retiring

Will Dante Scarnecchia ever truly "retire?"

The 72-year-old offensive line coach stepped away from the New England Patriots earlier this offseason, his second retirement since leaving the club in 2013 only to return in 2016.

But Scarnecchia still will be present at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on behalf of the Patriots, NFL Media's Michael Giardi reported Monday.

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Scarnecchia joined several Patriots assistant coaches and staffers on a flight to Indianapolis on Monday, per Giardi.

As Giardi noted, Scarnecchia also did some scouting when he first retired from the Patriots in 2013. New England coaxed him back in 2016, and he helped the team win two Super Bowl titles over the next four years.

It's possible Scarnecchia really is retired this time. But considering he's worked with the Patriots for 34 years -- he joined the team as a special teams and tight ends coach in 1982 -- and has been coaching nearly ever year of his life since 1970, he may have a hard time going cold turkey.

New England still hasn't found a replacement for Scarnecchia, so Bill Belichick likely appreciates the legendary offensive line coach doing some pro bono work.

On-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium begin Thursday and continue through Sunday.

NFL Rumors: Patriots exploring trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst

NFL Rumors: Patriots exploring trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst

The New England Patriots desperately need tight end depth, and they may turn to an AFC rival to acquire it.

The Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars both are "exploring" a trade for Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst ahead of the NFL Draft, the Florida Times-Union’s Eugene Frenette reported Monday.

Hurst, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, caught 30 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns last season in Baltimore, which are decent stats considering he competed with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle for targets at a crowded position.

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The 26-year-old also is a strong athlete, spending two seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league organization out of high school before turning to football and attending South Carolina.

Hurst is under team control through 2021 and is set to make just over $3 million in 2020.

The Patriots have a wealth of 2020 draft picks in their arsenal, so a trade for Hurst certainly seems feasible if they don't covet any tight end prospects in the draft.

New England has incentive to get a deal done quickly, however, as Tom Brady becomes a free agent March 18.