NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel was a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997, and he found a way to make an impact early in his career.
As a rookie, Vrabel played in 15 games. He registered a sack of Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, forcing a fumble, in the final two minutes of Pittsburgh's 7-6 victory in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game. He appeared in 51 games during his first four seasons in the NFL.
But Vrabel's career didn't really blossom until he arrived in New England. It's where the linebacker became a full-time starter, a Pro Bowler, a consistent sack and tackle producer, and a three-time Super Bowl champion.
Vrabel ended up playing 14 NFL seasons with the Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs.
As head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Vrabel said his own playing career will have an influence on how he coaches, and deals with players.
He vows to have patience. But he also wants players to be accountable, while knowing what to do.
"You want to try and get the player develop as quickly as possible," Vrabel said from the NFL owners meetings earlier this offseason. "But you do realize that it may take some time. So, (have) as much patience as we can possible have.
"It is critical as I evaluate myself as a coach: How do I let players make mistakes? Because they are all going to make mistakes. Hopefully they don't make too many and hopefully they don't make the same one twice. But on the practice field you have to find a way to let them make mistakes and correct them, and allow it to be a teaching moment. ..That's one thing I have to do a better job at – staying patient. And I'll work on that."
Vrabel served as defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans in 2017, and prior to that he served as the team's linebackers coach. Before joining the Texans, he was an assistant coach at Ohio State.
Vrabel took over as head coach of the Titans in January. He's been on the field with his players over the last month, during a veteran minicamp, a rookie minicamp, and during the team's offseason program.
On Monday, the Titans kick off organized team activities at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
The Titans drafted four players in this year's NFL Draft – linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry III, safety Dane Cruikshank, and quarterback Luke Falk.
The team also signed a big group of undrafted free agents.
Seven players remain on the roster from the team's 2017 draft class, and nine players are on the roster from the 2016 class. Some of the team's younger players have already made a splash, while others have served as role players early in their respective careers.
Vrabel has been hands-on in his approach, on the practice field and in meetings.
He's in the early stages of setting a tone himself.
"I try to get around to all the groups, and I try to see what everybody is doing," Vrabel said during rookie camp last weekend. "Just like I try to get into the meeting rooms and see what is going on, and help coach this team and help our assistant coaches try to reach their guys.
"… Everything we talk about with our veteran players and these rookies is, 'Know what to do, and play fast and aggressive.' And that is what we are going to ask of them all year. There's going to be mistakes, but we're going to make them going full-go."
Titans rookies take part in Saturday's rookie minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)