Vrabel Not Ready for New Career
Former Buckeye Unlikely to Fill Current Coaching Vacancy
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mike Vrabel would love to be a football coach some day.
When that day comes, there is nowhere on earth he would rather coach than the Ohio State University, where he was a star defensive player for the Buckeyes in the mid-1990’s.
The recent shakeup in Columbus has left interim head coach Luke Fickell with a vacancy on his coaching staff, but it doesn’t sound like Vrabel is ready to give up his spot on the field for a view from the sideline, even for a former teammate and the best man in his wedding.
“No, Luke hasn’t said he wants me on his staff,” Vrabel said after showing up to support Fickell during his introductory press conference at Ohio State.
“Luke knows I still have time to play, and I’m traveling to Chicago or New York for meetings with the owners. Luke knows I’ve got a bunch on my plate right now.”
The 35-year old Vrabel is currently a member of the NFL Players Association executive committee, which makes him one of the most important figures in the ongoing labor dispute between the NFL owners and players.
He is a 14-year veteran of the NFL, having played with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and, most recently, the Kansas City Chiefs. He was elected to the 2007 Pro Bowl and won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, but coaching has always been something in the back of his mind.
“I think it’s certainly something I would be interested in under the right situation,” Vrabel said.
“I’d have to look and see when my playing career comes to an end and my involvement with the players association and being on the executive committee and being in that role.”
Vrabel dabbled a little bit in coaching this year, but only for his kids’ baseball team. His real focus has been on continuing his playing career in the NFL, which could be on hold if the two sides cannot agree on a deal for the upcoming season.
That and his appearance at Fickell’s press conference seemed to further the notion that he could be ready to transition to the next phase of his life, but Vrabel insists he isn’t ready for a new career just yet.
“My contract is up with the Chiefs, so I’ll be looking for a job as soon as this lockout ends,” he said.
“That’s been my job for the last year or six months is concentrating on this lockout and helping our players get through a tough time. We’re making progress and we’re getting closer.”
Although it may not be Vrabel, the Buckeyes will need to fill the vacancy created when Fickell was promoted from co-defensive coordinator to interim head coach last month. Fickell had served as the linebackers coach under Tressel for the past six seasons, but he has not decided exactly how to handle the opening created by his own promotion.
“At this moment we have not done anything just yet. Here in the near future we will address that,” Fickell said Monday.
“In our mind right now it’s definitely going to be a defensive coach.”
It would only make sense that Fickell would hire a new linebackers coach to take his old spot on the staff, but that is not the only option. Fickell could also decide to shuffle his current coaches around in order to accommodate a new defensive coach.
“Within the next week or so, I think we’ll lay out the expectations and responsibilities,” Fickell said.
“There may be some changes coming, but we’re probably not ready to talk about that yet.”
Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock currently coaches the defensive line, which he has done since Fickell’s playing days. That means any shuffling that would occur would likely involve either Taver Johnson or Paul Haynes.
Haynes currently coaches the safeties at Ohio State, and he also coached defensive backs in his previous two stints at Louisville and Michigan State. Hey was a defensive back at Kent State and seems best fit to continue working with the secondary.
Johnson, on the other hand, was a linebacker at Wittenberg University. He coached the linebackers at both Millikin University and Miami University (Ohio) before accepting the position of defensive coordinator with the Redhawks in 2005.
His first opportunity to work with cornerbacks came when he joined Tressel’s staff back in 2007, and Fickell may decide that his talents would be better utilized working with the linebackers.
It’s all speculation right now, but Fickell will have to make a decision soon if the Buckeyes want to have an extra body on the recruiting trail this fall, not to mention a full coaching staff.
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