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.
"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.
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.