New England Patriots

JACKSONVILLE, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Linebacker Mike Vrabel #50 of the New England Patriots makes a 2-yard touchdown reception in front of safety Quintin Mikell #46 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter during Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Mike Vrabel, who on Wednesday was announced as the 34th member of the Patriots’ team Hall of Fame, was an impact defensive player for the Patriots for their first three Super Bowl runs. His 48 sacks for the Patriots rank seventh in franchise history, highlighting what he did as a cornerstone member of one of the best defensive units of the 2000s in the NFL.

Yet many remember Vrabel more for his moonlighting role as a tight end. During his eight seasons in New England the Patriots would, at times, line Vrabel up as a tight end in goal line situations. First deployed on offense in 2002, Vrabel caught eight of his 11 regular season targets with the Patriots, with all eight resulting in touchdowns. He added two more catches on two more targets for two more touchdowns in the playoffs, with one each in Super Bowl XXXVIII and an Super Bowl XXXIX.

  • It’s not like Vrabel played tight end prior to joining the Patriots as a free agent in 2001 though. So, where did that idea come from? Who came up with it? He shared the story when speaking to reporters following the announcement of his induction to the Hall on Thursday.

    “I think probably [then-Patriots offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis and [quarterback] Drew [Bledsoe]. I used to warm up with Drew, just go out before the game, a couple hours before, goof around, run routes. I didn’t want to sit at my locker if I got there early, so I wanted to do something.” Vrabel shared. “I said, ‘let’s go out and catch balls for the quarterback.’ So I would mess around with Drew and then I think he might’ve said, ‘Hey,’ to Charlie, ‘This guy could probably actually do something,’ And it never materialized. Then I think maybe the next year, they might’ve said, ‘Hey, give this a try. Learn the plays,’ My first touchdown was in San Diego, and we lost. So nobody really talked about it, and then it kind of just materialized from there. But probably Charlie Weis and Drew probably came up with the idea.”

    Of course, such an idea had to first be approved by the head coach. How did Bill Belichick react to the concept?

    “I wasn’t in there when it was presented. I don’t know,” Vrabel said with a laugh. “I wasn’t in there when they talked about it. I think that they just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this, learn the plays, and we’ll practice it today.'”

  • So, which of Vrabel’s catches was his favorite? “Probably the ones in the Super Bowl,” he shared, but did mention one from the regular season.

    “There was a back line one against the Jets that I don’t think we’ve ever thrown. It’s like the third progression in the goal line and I was like on the backside and never thought that I would even get the ball, and I turned around and it’s like, it’s already left his hand,” he recalled. “I’m like, ‘Well, I guess he got to his third progression,’ because normally it’s just like one, two and then throw it away on the goal line. And I turned around and the ball was there, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever caught that end line on the goal line.'”

    “So those are the ones that stand out to me,” he concluded. “But the Super Bowl one, where just everything’s a fog and blur and all of a sudden through a bunch of helmets and hands, Tom managed to find the football and get it through.”

    Vrabel’s induction ceremony will likely include plenty more tight end talk. The date of the ceremony, which will take place at the Patriots Hall of Fame in Foxborough, is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

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