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Patriots Links 7/02/09 - Who Will Fill the Mike Vrabel Void?

Renaissance rookie George Bussey ready to cook up some tackles at mini-camp.
Renaissance rookie George Bussey ready to cook up some tackles at mini-camp.

Jeff Howe looks at who will fill the Mike Vrabel void.

Even though Vrabel’s exile seemed to have caused widespread panic across New England, the Patriots are still loaded at 10 other starting positions on defense. Not to mention, Pierre Woods and Shawn Crable should be more than ready to fill in. Vrabel, who turns 34 in August, has seen his skills diminish in recent years, but he was still more than capable on the field. He finished fifth on the team with 67 tackles last season, according to coaches’ film review.

Woods and Crable may be able to match Vrabel’s statistical production, but they can’t account for his leadership. That duty will fall in the hands of linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas, along with a number of the other veterans on the defensive side of the ball.

Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa report on the renaissance qualities of the Patriots 2000 Rookie Draft Class.

First off, there’s defensive tackle Darryl Richard, picked in the seventh round of the draft, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech in three years and already has an MBA.  Richard, BTW, is also an accomplished piano player. Show off . . .

Then there’s defensive lineman George Bussey, taken in the fifth round. He gave up a full scholarship to culinary school for a chance to kick it up a notch as a walk-on to the Louisville football team.

Top pick Patrick Chung, a safety from Oregon, loves to draw in his spare time. And snapper Jake Ingram, a surfer dude from Hawaii, is also a certified fork-lift operator. So he’ll never starve.