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Reports: Texans assistant Mike Vrabel turns down 49ers defensive coordinator position 01.22.16 at 11:56 am ET
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Former Patriots linebacker and current Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel apparently is staying put in Houston.

The three-time Super Bowl champion has been receiving high praise for his coaching efforts over the last two years, and has drawn some interest as a result. Multiple reports say Vrabel interviewed with new 49ers coach Chip Kelly on Tuesday but has turned down the offer to be San Francisco’s defensive coordinator and will remain with the Texans.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien worked hard with general manager Rick Smith to finalize a new contract with Vrabel and keep him with the team, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Before his current stint with the Texans, Vrabel had coached at Ohio State (his alma mater) for three seasons. His ties to the program led him there, just as his ties to former Patriots coaches led him to Houston.

With Vrabel having been coached in New England by current Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Houston served as a comfortable destination for Vrabel’s first professional coaching gig. He likely will remain a hot commodity for teams in need of a defensive coordinator in the coming seasons.

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Mike Vrabel remains one of Bill Belichick’s all-time favorites 12.09.15 at 1:29 pm ET
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Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick spent eight seasons together in New England. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick spent eight seasons together in New England. (Elsa/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has coached for a long time, but there are only a handful of players in his all-time pantheon of retired favorites: Mark Bavaro. Troy Brown. Lawrence Taylor. Tedy Bruschi.

On Wednesday, it was clear that former linebacker/defensive end Mike Vrabel deserves a place on that Mount Rushmore.

Vrabel, who played in New England from 2001 through 2008, was known as a tough, cerebral player who was able to do whatever it took to succeed. One of the most versatile players in the New England system over the last dozen years — he also caught passes as a pat-time tight end — the pass rusher was more than willing to switch up positions in practice, even playing the role of former Ravens safety Ed Reed.

“You’d just say “Go back there and go with what you see and if you want to gamble, gamble.’ Mike would do that. He would love that,” Belichick recalled of Vrabel. ‘He would drive [Tom] Brady crazy doing that, like ‘Aw, he’ll never be there on that pattern.’ But it’s Ed Reed, you don’t know where Ed Reed would be. He was usually wherever the ball was — he somehow got there.

“Mike did that. You could just see his overall passion for the game, whether it be playing multiple positions, playing offense, defense, he had a great understanding and awareness of the total game and loved to play it, loved to play tight end. He’d go in and take a couple of plays at receiver.”

On Wednesday before practice, Belichick said it was easy to see Vrabel as a player who would transition to coaching sooner rather than later once his playing days were over for several reasons, including the fact that he never held back when it came to making suggestions.

“Definitely. Mike and I talked about that a lot,” said Belichick. “He’d give me advice and would tell him, ‘Mike, when you’re a coach, you’re calling the defenses, you should go ahead and do that. Here’s why we’re not going to do it or that’s a great idea.’€™ Or ‘Yeah, we can do that. I’m glad you brought that up.’

“You could even see it then [after five years], and his career wasn’t even half over and he was already kind of thinking about coaching. You could kind of tell when he got done playing, that’s what he was going to do. Yeah, I think that came out pretty early.”

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Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi among ex-Pats who pass first step in becoming members of Pro Football Hall of Fame 09.16.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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Eight players with deep roots on the New England football scene were announced as Modern Era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame‘s Class of 2016, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, defensive linemen Fred Smerlas and Willie McGinest, linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel and defensive backs Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy were all named Wednesday as part of a group of 108 individuals who are under consideration for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016. The nominees consist of 93 players (51 offense, 33 defense, 9 special teams) and 15 coaches. (Check out the complete list here.) The Modern Era nominees will be trimmed to 25 semifinalists in November and, from there, to 15 finalists in January.

Eighteen finalists will be presented to the full 46-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual selection meeting on the eve of Super Bowl 50. The finalists will consist of 15 Modern Era finalists, the recently named senior candidates, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel, and 2016 contributor candidate Edward DeBartolo, Jr.

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Read More: Drew Bledsoe, Fred Smerlas, Lawyer Milloy, Mike Vrabel
Thieves poach 3 Super Bowl rings from Mike Vrabel, and he’s pretty ticked 11.08.14 at 5:16 pm ET
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Mike Vrabel is an angry man. He has every right to be after thieves broken into his Houston area home and stole his three Super Bowl rings he won with the Patriots.

Vrabel, now the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans, tweeted Saturday that burglars broke into his home and took the jewelry.

Vrabel took to Twitter to express his outrage. “To all the Houston area pawn shops: 3 super bowl rings are headed your way. Courtesy of the m—– f—— who smashed our back door in.”

Vrabel wasn’t alone. His wife, Jen, lit into the culprits of the crime.

According to a spokesperson for the Bellaire Police Department, the break-in took place around 11 a.m. Saturday. The Texans are on a bye this weekend.

Vrabel was a starting linebacker on the Patriots teams that won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. He was also a favorite receiving target of quarterback Tom Brady.

A championship ring from the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI season sold on eBay in April 2012 for $50,000.

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As expected, new Texans coaching staff has heavy New England influence 02.05.14 at 5:39 pm ET
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The Texans and new head coach Bill O’Brien announced Houston’s new coaching staff on Wednesday, and it’s hardly a surprise that it has a heavy New England influence.

Joining O’Brien — who spent five seasons on Bill Belichick‘s staff with the Patriots — will be Romeo Crennel (former New England defensive coordinator who will also serve as DC in Houston) and George Godsey (who was the Patriots’ tight ends coach, but will be quarterbacks coach with the Texans). In addition, Patriots players Mike Vrabel (linebackers) and Anthony Pleasant (assistant strength and conditioning) will join O’Brien’s staff as assistants.

‘€œWe’€™ve put together a great staff of enthusiastic and passionate coaches with good character who have successful backgrounds in coaching,’€ O’€™Brien said in a statement issued by the team. ‘€œIt was important to put together a group who will be great teachers and I’€™m excited to begin our preparations for the 2014 season.’€

The following is a portion of the press release issued by the team:

Crennel comes to Houston following a three-year stint with the Kanas City Chiefs (2010-12) where he served as defensive coordinator (2010-11), interim head coach (2011) and head coach (2012). Prior to Kansas City, Crennel spent four seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (2005-08) following a highly successful stretch as defensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2001-04, where he helped the team win three Super Bowl titles. His first role as a defensive coordinator came in 2000 with Cleveland after stints with the New York Jets (1997-99), New England (1993-96) and New York Giants (1981-92).

Godsey joins the Texans after three years with the Patriots, first as offensive assistant in 2011 and then as tight ends coach the past two seasons. Prior to joining the Patriots, Godsey spent the previous seven seasons (2004-10) at Central Florida under head coach George O’€™Leary, who O’€™Brien coached with at Georgia Tech from 1995-01. Godsey played quarterback at Georgia Tech from 1998-01, where he first crossed paths with O’€™Brien, the running backs coach from 1998-00 and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2001.

Pleasant was the defensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2010-13 after working with the team as part of the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship in 2009. The former defensive lineman played 14 seasons in the NFL, including separate stints under Crennel’€™s guidance with the New York Jets (1998-99) and Patriots (2001-03)

Vrabel served as defensive line coach at Ohio State for the 2012-13 seasons after starting his coaching career as the linebackers coach for the Buckeyes in 2011. A former NFL linebacker for the Patriots, Vrabel was a part of three Super Bowl victories (2001, 2003, 2004) in his 14-year NFL career.

Read More: Anthony Pleasant, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, George Godsey
Rob Ninkovich ‘still trying to fill the shoes’ of Mike Vrabel 01.17.13 at 10:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — From the moment he took the number 50 with the Patriots, the comparisons began for Rob Ninkovich.

How does Ninkovich stack up to Mike Vrabel?

Ninkovich began his career in New England in 2009, the year Vrabel was traded to Kansas City.

Ninkovich was asked Thursday if he’s ever met Vrabel, who is now an assistant coach at his alma mater, Ohio State.

“No, never have, never met him, never talked to him, maybe one day,” Ninkovich said Thursday. “I’€™m sure he’€™ll probably give me some crap for taking his number.”

“I mean his whole career, the performance that he’€™s had his whole career, kind of speaks for itself. So just to even have the comparison, it’€™s an honor. But you know, different football players. You know obviously there’€™s … I think he was like four inches taller than me, his arms were way longer, so he has the advantage there.”

Actually two inches, as Vrabel stands 6-foot-4 and Ninkovich 6-2. But Ninkovich has more than stood tall this season with five forced fumbles and four recoveries.

Has Bill Belichick ever shown Ninkovich any tape of Mike Vrabel?

“Well, growing up, I’€™m a little bit younger than him so I always watched the Patriots and watched their successful seasons in the past when I wasn’€™t a part of the team,” Ninkovich said. “So, definitely, still trying to fill the shoes.”

After all the comparisons were only natural. He is a versatile outside linebacker who was converted to an edge pass rusher, who can not only get to the quarterback but also force fumbles and always find a way to jump on a loose ball on the field.

He did it again last Sunday in the final five minutes when the Texans appeared to be on the verge of converting an on-side kick, trailing 38-28. Ninkovich recovers the bouncing ball, crisis averted and Patriots seal the deal, 41-28.

“As a defensive player you’€™re always thinking that the ball is a key,” Ninkovich said. “You’€™re looking at the ball on the snap, you’€™re trying to find the ball in pursuit. When people are around the ball making plays you’€™re always aware where it’€™s at. You know if it’€™s fumbled or if it’€™s on the ground you have to get on it. Let everyone else decide what’€™s going on as long as you get the ball, it will all work itself out. As a defensive player, that’€™s in your mind all the time is being prepared to get on top of it.”

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Bill Belichick and the sweet science of the turnover 11.30.12 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover differential by a landslide. They have a +24, twice the number of the Ravens, the No. 2 team in the AFC in that category. The plus-24 is also 11 better than the next closest team in the NFL, the Bears.


Because the Patriots have perfected the art of stripping the ball from the carrier – rusher, receiver or quarterback – better than anyone. And like anything with Bill Belichick, there’s a science to it.

The Patriots have recovered 18 fumbles while committing just five of their own.

How often do they work on it?

“Every day,” Belichick said Friday. “We work on stripping the ball every day; recovering them every day. We talk about opportunities to get the ball out as we watch film. It’€™s no different than the way it’€™s been ‘€“ we’€™ve done that since I was with the Giants. It’€™s part of your defense.”

The Patriots are about to seal their 12th straight winning season under Belichick. Turnover differential is arguably the biggest reason why.

Only twice in Belichick’s 13 seasons have they had a negative number. In 2000, his first season, they were minus-2 and finished 5-11. In 2005, they were minus-6, the worst in his 13 seasons but still finished 10-6 and won the AFC East.

Since 2005, they have posted six straight seasons of plus turnover differential and are well on their way to making it seven.

Usually this is a team stat but there’s two stars on this team that have perfected it – Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich, each with five. Ninkovich has recorded all of his on strip sacks this season, matching Mike Vrabel in 2007 for the franchise record. Why is he so good at stripping it and recovering it as opposed to some other guys who look clumsy trying to pick up the ball?

“It’€™s just like everybody else, some guys are better at some things than others,” Belichick said “Other guys are better at some things than they are at other things. I don’€™t know. A big part of causing fumbles is awareness, timing speed can play into it, coming up from behind ‘€“ that’€™s usually a good opportunity to cause fumbles is by a defensive back or a linebacker, could be by a defensive linemen running down guys from behind, backs, receivers, quarterbacks, whoever it happens to be.

“Those are usually good strip opportunities. He’€™s had a number of those. Rob has good awareness, he’€™s a good athlete and he does a lot of things well. He runs well, has good quickness, catches the ball well ‘€“ he’€™s had a bunch of interceptions for us. I think guys that have those kind of skills have a little more propensity to find the ball, knock it out and come up with it cleanly.

Does Belichick watch how opponents’€™ ball handlers carry the ball?

“Carry it, throw it, yeah,” he said. “Again, whatever opportunities we have. When we see certain types of plays, certain techniques, we point those out to the players ‘€“ If we were in this situation, we would have an opportunity to be in the throwing lane or disrupt the ball or strip it out or if we read this, we would have a chance to undercut the route and intercept it or whatever it happens to be. As we’€™re watching plays we talk about those things, sure. Maybe it’€™s not on that particular play because of what the other team’€™s defense is in but we’€™d say, ‘€˜OK, if we were in this defense, if we were here or if you were in this position, then this is the play you would want to try to make.’€™ Then there would be a drill, maybe we wouldn’€™t be doing it that day, but a drill that we have done that we would talk about and say, ‘€˜OK, here’€™s an example of how we would use this drill or this technique.’€™ Yeah sure, we talk about it all the time. Read the rest of this entry »

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