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Titans HC Mike Vrabel Enjoying the Moment as AFC Pro Bowl Coach


LAS VEGAS – The head coach of the Tennessee Titans is coaching the AFC's best players here at the Pro Bowl.

Decked out his Titans gear, Mike Vrabel has been making the rounds before, during, and after practice, chatting with players, including four of his own, and signing autographs for fans.

He's smiling, and clearly enjoying himself in the sun, minus the stress.

Titans guard Rodger Saffold, one of the team's for Pro Bowlers, said he's seeing a softer, gentler side of Vrabel he hasn't seen in the past.

"It's weird," Saffold said with a smile. "His voice is at a different octave than I am used to hearing at practice. He's cracking jokes with guys. But, hey, you can tell he is having a great time, enjoying himself. He's having a great time. And I think he is creating new relationships with a lot of guys he hasn't had a chance to before. You can tell he is enjoying the journey of being a Pro Bowl coach, and he's doing a great job."

Vrabel, an intense and successful coach who guided his team to the AFC's No.1 seed while coaching the Titans to 12 wins in 2021 – the most by the franchise since 2008 – would rather be preparing his team for next week's Super Bowl, of course.

But he's enjoying his duties as head coach of the AFC at the Pro Bowl.

"We've all resigned ourselves to the fact that we're not playing in the Super Bowl, and that's either because we lost in the regular season or we lost a critical playoff game," Vrabel said on Friday. "But I told all of them to have fun, and appreciate the players that they are around, and to embrace what maybe somebody else has done in their playing career, and to learn from them. And that's something that I know they'll take with them."

Vrabel admitted the past two weeks, after his team's season-ending playoff loss to the Bengals, haven't been easy.

"It's disappointing to lose," Vrabel said. "We put a lot into it. But as I told you before, I am not discouraged. I am excited about where this team is, where this organization is, and where the foundation is."

Vrabel admitted he's toned it down a bit here compared to his mindset during the regular season, and playoffs, as coach of the Titans.

Vrabel's coaching style – and success in 2021 – has already earned him a few NFL Coach of the Year awards, including one from the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

"I tried to shut it off when I got on the flight and came out here," Vrabel said with a smile. "I wouldn't call it coaching – it's more babysitting than anything."

The players he's coaching here in Vegas, however, are extremely talented, from quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Mac Jones to receivers Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs to pass rushers T.J. Watt, Matthew Judon and Myles Garrett, and that's just scratching the surface.

"These players, they are elite at their position, in their sport," Vrabel said. "But they are also really great people, and you can see why these guys are at the level they are at. They just know how to do things, their maturity. Talking to these guys, it's impressive."

Vrabel said it's been cool coaching his own players – Saffold, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, linebacker Harold Landry and safety Kevin Byard – in a different setting in practices.

"We've always talked about when the team has success, everybody else as individuals get recognized," Vrabel said of the four Titans. "So that's something we've felt strongly about, and we have had success. All these guys are very deserving, and hopefully they'll all continue to perform and help us win."

Byard, at his second Pro Bowl, said his coach has had the perfect tone this week.

"We just had a team meeting, and he was cracking jokes and things like that," Byard said. "Vrabel is one of the best coaches in the league. He is a great players coach. He knows how to connect well with the best players in the league. I am happy to have him out here."

A Pro Bowler himself back in 2007, Vrabel appreciated the opportunity as a player.

He's going to enjoy himself this week, and on Sunday, while coaching the Pro Bowl.

"Of course, we'd all rather be preparing for a Super Bowl," Vrabel said. "We had a good season, but it didn't finish like we wanted, and that's going to happen for 31 teams. It's been great to see our staff and our players be able to be out here and enjoy this experience."

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