Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel spent eight seasons as teammates, helping the Patriots win three Super Bowl championships. The fellow linebackers formed a close bond on the field and off.
So it should come as little surprise that Bruschi was surprised and disappointed when he heard the news this past weekend that Vrabel had been dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs along with quarterback Matt Cassel in exchange for the 34th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
"Sometimes with me personally -- with Vrabes, our relationship -- my personal feelings get involved," Bruschi said during a candid interview with sports radio WEEI's "Dale and Holley" show this afternoon. "Why would one of my best friends throughout my entire career, why don't we need a guy like that? In my own selfish way, we hung out together. There goes my boy, you know, he's going off to somewhere else. I get a little upset about that, and I wonder, what happened? How come he couldn't stay here?
"The solution for both [the player and the team] was for him to move on. Why? I still don't know. I still don't know. Because losing Vrabes, the team completely changes. We've had big changes before, but to me, this is one of the biggest for me as a linebacker, you know, seeing Mike Vrabel go. But we've coped with changes before [and I] think we'll be able to overcome."
Bruschi said that Vrabel will be missed on game day, but that's only the beginning of what he brought to the Patriots.
"He could be a leader on the field, he could be the one making the plays that won the game, whether that be on defense or offense when he was catching the football, catching touchdowns as a tight end," Bruschi said. "And then going into the locker room or saying something during the stretch line that was so absolutely hilarious that had the morale sort of boosted and raised and sort of lighten the atmosphere in the locker room.
"He did so many things, being our player representative along with being on the executive committee. He did so many things, not just for us but for the NFL. Kansas City, I hope they realize what they are getting, because they're a lucky organization."
There has been some speculation that had the Patriots not traded Vrabel, they eventually would have cut him for salary cap reasons. Bruschi said he found that hard to believe.
"Oh, I would highly doubt that," he said. "I would say I would highly doubt that. . . . All I can do with my knowledge and as a member of the organization [is to say] that he was very valuable to us. He was very valuable to us as a player and as a team leader, and just to let somebody go like that, I would like to think that that wouldn't have happened."
Bruschi, who was chosen in the third round out of Arizona in the 1996 draft and is the longest tenured Patriot, said he was well aware of his own football mortality even before his friend Vrabel's departure.
"I've realized for, shoot, 3, 4, 5 years now that you can't play football forever, and with me going into my 14th year," said Bruschi, who turns 36 on June 9. "I'm very fortunate to have made it this far and to have so much success that I've had and the team has had since I've been here. I realize this isn't going to last forever. I won't be playing football forever. But I think I've tried to ensure that when I stop playing football, the last helmet I'll be wearing is a Patriot helmet."