As a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s hard for me to feel too sentimental about the retirement of veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel. After an illustrious 14-year NFL career, Vrabel has decided to hang up the cleats. But it’s not because he’s being shoved out of town by the Kansas City Chiefs, the team he’s played for the last two seasons. No, Vrabel is moving on to coaching, and he’ll begin his new career at one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country — his alma mater, Ohio State. Of course, the Buckeyes are mired in a scandal, but still, talk about a great first coaching gig, even if it is just working with the linebackers. Even I can admit that. Congratulations to Vrabel on a great career and though I hated watching him help the Patriots win three Super Bowls last decade, best of luck in your future endeavors. Mike Vrabel joined ESPN Radio Dallas to talk about whether he would have made the decision to retire had there not been a prolonged lockout, his reactions to Bill Belichick’s complimentary remarks about Vrabel’s career and the likelihood of him going on to be a great coach someday, his approach to helping clean up the mess at Ohio State, just how excited he is to be returning to Columbus to coach at his alma mater, whether he’s still part of the lockout and CBA negotiations despite having recently announced his retirement, and how he’d characterize his transformation as a player and person over the course of his 14 year NFL career.
If he would have made the decision to retire had the NFL not been bogged down in a lockout this offseason:
“I thought in January when we lost to the Ravens that I had played my last down in the NFL. Whether the league resumed in March, I don’t know if I would have felt any better or any worse, but I’m comfortable with this decision. It’s certainly exciting, it’s a new challenge, it’s something that’s going to give me something to do and something I want to do.”
On Bill Belichick’s comments after Vrabel announced his retirement that Vrabel was one of the most important and integral members of the Pats’ locker room and bound to be a great coach one day:
“Well it’s humbling, it’s flattering. I think a lot of what I’m going to do and these these guys is going to come from Bill, it’s going sound like Bill, and hopefully if I can join that coaching tree of guys that have worked with Bill to go on to be great coaches either in college or in the NFL, hopefully I can be one of those guys.”
On what he can do to help clean up the mess surrounding Ohio State’s football program:
“Well our compliance office is doing a great job educating our players and continuing to educate them. There’s weekly meetings. We’re not going take our frustration out on the guys on our team that are doing the right thing. It’s just not fair to those guys. I’m coming in, I told these guys they’ve got a clean slate with me on the field, off the field, we’re starting new and I’ll evaluate them on their performance from this day going forward. The head coach and the defensive coordinator may have other plans, but that’s what I told these guys when I met with them.”
Just how excited is he about the new coaching gig at his alma mater?
“I’m pumped I love it, I’m excited. I get up, come down here and watch film, and just starting to learn these guys. And it’s important to learn these guys on a personal basis because when we hit August and we hit camp, we can get moving.
Whether he’s still part of the negotiating process in the NFL Lockout and CBA proceedings despite announcing his retirment:
“I am still part of our executive committe by our by-laws being voted in. That role dimished a lot today with the accepting of this job. We’ve got guys that are negotiating; I was a part of that for a long time. And we’ve got a good group of guys on the executive committee that are going to be able to finish this thing off.”
Does he have a new, heightened interest in retired player benefits?
[Laughs]“They’re working like hell to make sure those guys are taken care of in the negotiating process.”
On how he’d characterize his transformation as a player and person today since he first entered the NFL well over a decade ago:
“Well I’m a lot different. I’m a father — I’ve got an 11-year old, I’ve got a 9-year old. I just think I’ve learned a lot; I know what bad football looks like, I’ve played plenty of bad football. I think I’m a little more understanding of when mistakes happen, and getting them corrected and moving on to the next play and just bring a positive energy and some excitement to these guys.”