How Mike Vrabel went from linebacker to touchdown-catching tight end


There are few things Bill Belichick loves more than versatility.

Witness Troy Brown playing defense. Julian Edelman converting to a quarterback. Rob Gronkowski playing defense on one last play in Miami. (Too soon?)

But one of the best examples of a Patriot playing both sides of the ball is Mike Vrabel.

Already a clutch defender, Vrabel added tight end to his resume in the 2002 season, catching a touchdown pass in a Week 4 loss to the Chargers. Little did he know, he would soon become one of Tom Brady's most dependable targets. On Friday, the now-Titans head coach explained to NBC Sports Boston's Gary Tanguay how he shifted to the offensive side of the ball.

"I think it probably started with Drew (Bledsoe), just warming up with him," Vrabel said. "Drew was a guy that liked to get to the stadium early, and a quarterback who liked to throw, so I would go out, 'I'll run these routes and I'll goof around.' (It was) a good way for me to warm up. He might have mentioned to Charlie (Weis), 'Hey, this guy could actually do it,' maybe laughed at it.

"And then you get into a situation where you can only activate a few tight ends, so they said one week, 'Hey, be ready for these plays, practice them.' I caught a touchdown in San Diego, and we lost -- it didn't get much notoriety or anything -- and then it kind of just evolved to 'I could probably do this and see where it goes.' "

And where did it go? Vrabel caught 10 passes from Brady, all touchdowns, between 2002 and 2007. Two came in Super Bowls: a go-ahead strike with under three minutes left in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers and another go-ahead score one year later against the Eagles.

But what about Vrabel's success as a tight end? Could it have rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way? Tanguay jokingly floated that suggestion to Vrabel by saying, "I think (Christian) Fauria is still pissed."

Vrabel's response was priceless, saying "That's OK" with a laugh. Check out the exchange in the video above.

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