NASHVILLE – Mike Vrabel wasn't scheduled to be on a Zoom conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
But the Titans head coach jumped in ahead of his defensive assistants scheduled to speak so he could tackle a topic that's important to him and the players he coaches: social justice issues, and the need for unity in our society.
Vrabel admitted that he did not see the issue as clearly as he needed, and he challenged leaders everywhere to do better.
Vrabel said he's had a number of conversations with Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and General Manager Jon Robinson in recent days in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and the protests that have followed across the country, including in Nashville.
And he's also had numerous talks with his players.
"There's just some things I would like to say: First, I'd like to first acknowledge my own personal privilege, one that is real," Vrabel said. "And I'd like to acknowledge a social blind spot that either I was unaware of or chose not to see. I've had the unbelievable opportunity to listen to our players the last two days in our team meetings. I listen to them with an open mind and hear and learn what they believe in and how they feel. Amy, Jon and myself have tried to put great people and great fathers and great husbands and great student-athletes onto our football team, and the majority of those men are African-American with a much different experience and background than I'll ever know. And by listening and understanding those thoughts and feelings, and how they feel, has helped me recognize what is important, and what is important is we find ways to respect each others' feelings, that we respect each others' beliefs, that we respect each others' efforts to make positive change in our community where we work, the communities where we live and the communities where we grew up."
Vrabel also talked about his upbringing, and about the definition of leadership, while also addressing the role race relations play in a sports locker room.
"Being an only child of a basketball coach, playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs afforded me a great luxury of seeing how successful locker rooms are built and managed," Vrabel said. "They're built and managed on fair competition, love, loyalty, accountability, teamwork. What they're not built on is race, creed, color or money.
"I would say that in closing, leaders are prepared, leaders take decisive action and inspire a group of people towards a common goal. That common goal is inclusion, diversity, equality, opportunity. So, on behalf of the Tennessee Titans – our owner, our general manager, the head football coach, our staff – we want to support and will continue to help lead our players as we work towards that common goal."