Patriots

Mike Vrabel's thoughts about playing for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick

Mike Vrabel's thoughts about playing for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted on January 24, 2019

The New England Patriots are getting ready to take on the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs. And while playing a Wild Card game may not be familiar for the Patriots, the man in charge of the Titans is.

Mike Vrabel is in his second season as the head coach of the Titans and will be making his first playoff appearance as a head coach. Vrabel, of course, spent eight years with the Patriots and was a key defensive playmaker for them.

And as Vrabel detailed to NBC Sports Boston's Gary Tanguay in an exclusive interview last January, he really loved playing for the Patriots.

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"I enjoyed every minute that I spent in New England," Vrabel said. "Those players, those coaches, those fans. Bill [Belichick] was obviously a big influence on my playing career just to help me improve."

Belichick signed Vrabel in 2001 after he had mostly been a backup player with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Vrabel exceeded all expectations with the Patriots. He became a starter at linebacker and recorded 604 tackles and 48 sacks during his time with the team. And he helped the team to win three Super Bowls.

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While Belichick and Vrabel enjoyed a great relationship when the two were with the Patriots, it got a bit rocky after the Patriots traded Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs along with Matt Cassel. After that, Vrabel admitted that he didn't talk to Belichick for two years but first contacted him about getting into coaching.

From there, Vrabel said the relationship "picked up" and that Belichick has "been a great asset" to him. He had nothing but good things to say when talking about his former head coach.

"He's really intelligent," Vrabel said of Belichick. "He cares. He has a good way of relating to guys. You know, I think he coaches guys differently based on their personality which is critical."

There may be fewer pleasantries expressed by Vrabel ahead of Saturday night's Wild Card game. But safe to say, both coaches will have their teams ready to go for what should be an exciting contest.

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.