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Sunday, February 6, 2005
Linebacker joins elite company

Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- New England's Mike Vrabel has become one of the most prolific receivers in Super Bowl history.

Not bad for a linebacker.

Mike Vrabel
Mike Vrabel -- usually a linebacker -- hauls in the second Super Bowl touchdown catch of his career.

Vrabel caught his second touchdown pass in the Super Bowl in two years, helping the Patriots beat Philadelphia 24-21 on Sunday night to repeat as NFL champions.

"I'm still trying to believe this happened again," Vrabel said. "I didn't expect it last year and I didn't expect to do it again."

Vrabel's 2-yard TD catch early in the third quarter gave the Patriots a 14-7 lead and tied him with Michael Irvin, John Taylor and 12 others for sixth on the Super Bowl career touchdown list.

Jerry Rice tops the list with eight career TDs. John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Cliff Branch and Antonio Freeman are tied for second with three.

So Vrabel is in pretty good company, especially for a linebacker.

"That's a good list to be on," tight end Jed Weaver said. "That's the epitome of this team. We put guys into position to do great things."

Vrabel played the game of his life on sports' biggest stage in last year's Super Bowl against Carolina. He caught a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that helped the Patriots win. He also had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

He had two tackles and a sack Sunday -- and picked up another Super Bowl souvenir. He kept the football from last year's game and neatly displayed it back home in Ohio.

This one could get even more attention. After all, it was a juggling catch and it moved him into the record books.

Vrabel had defensive end Jevon Kearse pulling at his jersey when he tipped the pass from Tom Brady to cap the opening drive of the second half. Then, as he was falling to the ground, Vrabel maintained concentration and grabbed the ball.

He made a tough catch look easy.

And remember, he's a linebacker.

Veteran tight end Christian Fauria came off the field after Vrabel's touchdown and jokingly told Weaver he was going to switch to defense so he could score.

"That's our little joke every time Vrabel gets one," Weaver said. "But it's all good."

Vrabel had two touchdown catches during the regular season, including one in the finale against San Francisco. Now, he has five career catches -- all for touchdowns.

Although receiver-turned-cornerback Troy Brown gets more attention for playing both ways, Vrabel might be the team's most versatile player. He makes tackles, covers receivers, rushes quarterbacks and lines up as a tight end in goal-line situations.

"He is very adaptable," coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week.

A defensive end in college at Ohio State who moved to linebacker in the NFL, Vrabel is making plans for another transition.

He returned to college last summer to complete his degree in exercise physiology. He finished school because he wants to become a coach after his playing days are over. He could coach offense or defense -- or both.

"He's a baller all around," Weaver said. "He would be successful in anything he does."