Former Patriots LB Mike Vrabel answered questions from reporters today in Kansas City. The audio is available on the Chiefs' official website and here were a few nuggets of note (edited transcript of conference call, as transcribed by the Chiefs' media relations staff, can be seen by clicking "full entry" at the bottom of this update):
Q: What is in it for you to come to Kansas City?
MIKE VRABEL: “A change of scenery, a different place to work, a different place to live. I am every bit excited about it and the opportunity. I am looking forward to it and we will see where it goes from here.”
Q: Did you want out of New England?
VRABEL: “I wouldn’t say that is necessarily true, but the situation is what it is. To be anything but excited wouldn’t be giving the Chiefs, players, and the fans the respect that they deserve. I am playing for the Chiefs. Whoever I was going to be playing for this year, I would give them the same effort.”
Q: Is it accurate that you will be playing with a chip on your shoulder?
VRABEL: “I don’t know how accurate that is. This is a production business and the bottom line is, it is all about production. You put those eight years up against a lot of different guys, then I would be really happy with what I did in those eight years. With that being said, I know that I have got some more football left. I can still play and I can still help the Chiefs and I will help the Chiefs. I have never gone into a season and said, ‘I am going to do this, this and this.’ I will promise you that I will work, I’ll be consistent and God willing I will be durable. Those are the things that I like to think that I brought to the table in New England and will bring to the table in Kansas City.”
Q: What position will you play here in Kansas City?
VRABEL: “I would imagine linebacker since that is where I played and hopefully I can help, if there is a need, in a goal line situation on offense. I have done that in the past. Certainly if I had to pick and (TE) Tony Gonzalez was down there and I was down there, I’d probably cover Tony Gonzalez before me so maybe I could open up some possibilities, I don’t know. He draws plenty of attention; he always has when the Patriots played him.”
Q: Are you more comfortable inside or outside?
VRABEL: “When I first moved inside, for whatever reason in New England, there was a certain transition period but after two years of playing in there I was pretty comfortable. I can play either one of the spots depending on what we need. I don’t know what the coaches plans are, what their thoughts are, what they want to do with the personnel that we have from last year and the guys that will be coming in.”
Q: Have they indicated whether it will be a 4-3 or 3-4 defense?
VRABEL: “Everything that I know, I think that there is going to be a lot of flexibility there. If you look at the staff that is coaching the defense, it is a staff that has a lot of history in the 3-4 and also the 4-3. I think what any coach would want to do is try and get the best 11 guys out there whether you are kicking off, playing offense or playing defense. However we can get the best 11 guys out there I imagine that is the type of defense we are going to play.”
Q: How tough is it to take on a leadership role in the locker room? Do you expect earning three Super Bowl rings will help earn the team’s respect?
VRABEL: “I don’t even have my rings out. People ask me why I don’t have jerseys up, why I don’t have my rings out in my house and this is a perfect example why. To think that I am going to come in and say I have three Super Bowl rings and went 18-0 and lost in the Super Bowl will never even cross my mind. It will be about working, it will be about how to make sure everybody finds a role and tries to carry out that role.”
Q: Are you a vocal leader in the locker room?
VRABEL: “I am not going to give a pregame speech or anything like that but I think what guys respect is someone that can go out and be counted on, be accountable and play every week. Bring that same style of football, preparation every week. That is what guys respect. They don’t respect a guy that gets up and screams and yells. Everybody is in this thing together. All the guys want to find a role and go out there and play. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who is coaching your football team; the coaches find the talent and the players have to go out there and play together and they have to play well.”
Q: What do you know about this Chiefs team and do you have friends on the team?
VRABEL: “I know it is a young team. I know that it is a team that played in a lot of close ball games so I think that is promising to play in that many close games. Hopefully with that type of experience, we will be able to win those close games. The NFL comes down to those tight games. If you look, I think they lost seven games by less than a touchdown and those are close games that can be won.
“I met (TE) Tony Gonzalez at the Pro Bowl and (G) Brian Waters is a player representative that I have known and got to meet at our meetings and obviously (QB) Matt Cassel. I will probably be familiar with some other players. I have a lot of respect for (LB) Derrick Johnson watching him play, he has a lot of talent and ability and I certainly like the way that he plays. I don’t know him but I admire him. We are all football players and I think everybody is going to have a lot of the same qualities and characteristics to make it to this point in their career.”
Q: Will you make it a point to speak with (TE) Tony Gonzalez and (G) Brian Waters to convince them to stay in Kansas City?
VRABEL: “No, I am not familiar with their personal situations. This goes on every year. Guys are happy, guys are unhappy, I don’t know. The thing that we have always done in the past, whether it be with me or (LB) Teddy Bruschi, you get those things handled and when you report to camp and it is time to practice, all the contracts and other situations are kind of put aside and it is time to play. Everybody is on the same field and everybody is in that same locker room so whatever their personal situations are they will have to deal with them.”
Q: Do you think Matt Cassel is a franchise type quarterback for the Chiefs that can lead them to the postseason?
VRABEL: “Just from my observations Matt got better every snap that he took last year. He gained confidence and not only did he play better but he also became a better leader. The guys would gather around him and the guys would trust in him and know that we had a chance with Matt quarterbacking our football team.”
Q: How is your relationship with GM Scott Pioli?
VRABEL: “I am familiar with Scott. We were a part of the same organization for eight years. Scott has a lot of history with Bill (Belichick) and I played under Bill for eight years. I would imagine that the football team you see today will not be the same football team you see at the end of July, that I can assure you. There will be a lot of competition at every spot. There will be a high demand placed on guys who think football is important, to put football and their teammates at the top of their priority list, that I know. As far as a relationship, it is a working relationship. He is the general manager, we have pretty much all dealt with Scott and we will negotiate a contract through my agent. We will continue to do that. Hopefully he will be able to bring some guys in to fix our roster up to where we can go and compete in camp with 80 guys and build a football team.”
Q: What is the definition of “The Patriot Way”?
VRABEL: “I think it is about making football important. Loving to play football is about being prepared, being accountable and consistent. I think to be consistent at least your teammates and your coaches know what to expect out of you every week and it is not something that is great one week and then crappy the next. It is putting effort in and getting consistent production from the players.”
Q: Have you met with Head Coach Todd Haley yet?
VRABEL: “I did for a few minutes when I came out last Friday. I took the physical when I got there and I had a chance to talk with him and just share some thoughts with him.”
Q: What are your memories of playing at Arrowhead Stadium?
VRABEL: “That was the first thing I told him, if we can get this thing back to where this is a tough place to play and we win all of our games at home or damn near all of them, we can be successful. I remember every year it seemed like we played on Monday night and it was a tough place to play, it was loud, and you had to play extra-ordinary good to win. Hopefully we can get back to that and give the fans something to cheer about. When the product out there isn’t good, there is nothing really to cheer about.”