Belichick & Vrabel revisited

The 2009 trade in which the Patriots sent Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round draft choice stung for many New England fans. The inclusion of Vrabel, a fan favorite, was what made it so hard to digest.

In her piece on Bill Belichick and his motivational ways, ESPNBoston.com columnist Jackie MacMullan shares Vrabel's perspective on how it all unfolded, how it affected the dynamic between them, and where it stands now.

Vrabel had one year left on his contract when he went to Belichick in 2009 and told him he'd like to redo his deal. Within weeks, he was dealt to Kansas City.

It was a shocking and hurtful development for the proud linebacker, who had enjoyed a tremendous relationship with Belichick. Vrabel didn't speak to his former coach for almost two years after the trade.

Time has softened Vrabel's stance. He's retired now and working as a defensive line coach at Ohio State, and hopes to pop in on a Patriots practice in Indianapolis.

"Bill and I are more than fine now," Vrabel said. "To be honest, I had this revelation. Let's say, for example, I stayed in New England and got old, and it got messy. Maybe I got cut. If that happened, we probably wouldn't have a relationship.

"Looking back, what Bill did made sense. I went to K.C., met a ton of people. Now Bill and I talk all the time. I get advice on my players. I check on his daughter, who is at Ohio State.

"We never talked about the trade. We probably never will. But I know this: Bill cares. He doesn't show it, but if you bust your ass for him, he's got your back.

"Now, that may not come across in August in training camp. But one day, these guys will be 36 years old and they'll understand what he was all about."