Mike Vrabel (born August 14, 1975 in Akron, Ohio) is an American football player. He has been a linebacker for the NFL's New England Patriots since 2001, after spending four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He recently extended his contract with the Patriots through 2007.
He played defensive end at the Ohio State University, where he hopes to coach after his playing career is over. Like Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest, he was converted to a linebacker once in the NFL.
Vrabel was already well-known to Patriots fans prior to his arrival in Foxboro; his sack of Drew Bledsoe in the 1997 AFC Divisional Playoffs clinched a 7-6 Steelers win.
On situations where the Patriots offense need one or two yards for a first down, Vrabel frequently checks in as a tight end, which makes him an eligible receiver. Patriots coach Bill Belichick took advantage of this in Super Bowl XXXVIII: in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Vrabel, making Vrabel the first defensive player to score a touchdown on offense since William "Refrigerator" Perry did so for the Bears against the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986.
Vrabel was one of the defensive stars in the game as well; he had two sacks (one forcing a fumble) of Carolina's Jake Delhomme, and was a contender for the Super Bowl MVP award that went to Brady.
Despite Brady's penchant for throwing to Vrabel in such situations, teams are often unable to cover Vrabel properly: in Super Bowl XXXIX, Vrabel caught a 2-yard touchdown pass, despite being held by Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse. The reception makes him one of 17 players to catch two or more touchdown passes in Super Bowls.
As of December 2005, Vrabel has had eight career receptions; every reception was with the Patriots and went for a 1- or 2-yard touchdown.
On December 26, 2005, on the final Monday Night Football game on ABC, Vrabel became, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first player--since the official recording of sacks began in 1982--to have two touchdown catches and a sack in the same game.
Though Vrabel had always played right outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme, the 2005 season saw a slight change in Vrabel's positioning. He began the year at outside linebacker, but due to the limited effectiveness of inside backers Monty Beisel and Chad Brown, Vrabel began playing more at inside linebacker. By the time Tedy Bruschi had returned from injury, he and Vrabel were the two men startng inside. Rosevelt Colvin successfully filled Vrabel's old spot, and many cite the change in positions as a major contributor to the Patriots' rebound in the second half of the season.