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Linebacker Mike Vrabel, a player who helped anchor the Patriots’ dynasty defense of the 2000’s, is hanging up the cleats and grabbing the clip board. The 35-year-old retired from the NFL on Monday and agreed to join the coaching staff at his Alma Mater, THE Ohio State University.
“During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike,” Belichick said in a statement released by Ohio State. “He was elected a team captain by his peers and is a player who I think everyone knew was destined to become a coach after his NFL playing career was over.
“Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners.’’
Vrabel played 14 NFL seasons with the Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs, but enjoyed most of his success in New England, where he won three Super Bowl titles and appeared in a fourth (2008) in eight seasons with the team.
“I am especially grateful to Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, who not only gave me an opportunity to play for a team that won three Super Bowl championships and won an NFL record 21 games in a row, they also taught me invaluable lessons on creating the ultimate team approach,” Vrabel said in a statement.
Vrabel had his best season during the Pats’ perfect regular season in 2007, finishing with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles and his lone Pro Bowl berth.
But, perhaps his greatest moment (besides his touchdowns) came early in his career in Super Bowl XXXVI, as his rush on Kurt Warner forced an errant pass in the first half that was caught by Ty Law, who returned it all the way for the touchdown.
The linebacker was shockingly traded, along with quarterback Matt Cassel, to the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2008 season for a 2nd round draft pick (which turned out to be Patrick Chung). Vrabel was a vocal member of the Pats’ locker room, and there were rumbles that he was traded because he was the team’s player rep during difficult labor negotiations (that still haven’t been solved). Vrabel later told the Globe he felt his position as player rep led to strained relations with Pats owner Robert Kraft.
Now, Vrabel will work with the linebackers under new Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell as the university hopes to move past their scandalous 2010 season.