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Belichick: Vrabel one of toughest players I've coached

Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel doesn't hold back his dissatisfaction when a player doesn't perform. His bellowing voice can be heard clear across the football field.

But communication is only one of the former All-Pro linebacker's strengths.

Vrabel, who played 14 seasons and a total of 206 games in the NFL, left an indelible mark on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

"Mike had a lot of great qualities as a player," Belichick said Wednesday. "Mike played defense. He played a lot of positions on defense. He played everything in the kicking game and also did a lot for us on offense, playing tight end in short-yardage situations. He could call signals, he had great leadership, was a multi-year captain, so his leadership, his presence, his communication, awareness, situational awareness in addition to just being a good football player, but those things were traits that carried over into coaching. And Mike's one of the physically and mentally toughest players I've ever coached, so I'm sure that will serve him well in this profession, too. There's times when you need that."

During his own career, Vrabel relied on his mental toughness. During his four seasons in Pittsburgh, Vrabel never started a game. However, he used the opportunity to deepen his understanding of the game.

"I learned a lot in Pittsburgh," Vrabel said. "I learned a lot of football, fundamental, physical football playing outside linebacker. Then, coming to New England, (I've) been able to try to take it to the next level and that's really where I blossomed as a player."

Vrabel admits that it was under Belichick that he really developed his situational awareness of football. He finished his career with 722 tackles (496 solo), 57.0 sacks, 42 passes defensed, 11 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 20 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries, and 12 touchdowns receiving (as a tight end), including two in Super Bowls.

What made Vrabel successful during his eight-year run with the Patriots should serve him well in coaching. The three-time Super Bowl champion wants his players to deepen their understanding of the game too.

"If you can pay attention and focus in the meetings, you can learn a lot," Vrabel said. "It takes some time, I think, to take it from the meetings and recognize that, oh, this is the situation, this is what's happening, this is the formation. So, that's why we practice. We keep going. Some guys get it quicker, some guys don't, so we'll continue to press upon them in the meeting room and then try to get them to see it out here on the field."

Check out some of the best shots from the second and final day of joint practice with the Patriots at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

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