ST. LOUIS – Former St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil says his Rams would not have won the Super Bowl back in 1999 under the new, limited practice rules of the NFL.
Vermeil, who visited the Rams on Thursday, was famous for his tough training camps.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the mandatory veteran reporting date is no earlier than 15 days before the first preseason game. The first day is limited to physicals and meetings, and the second and third day workouts have no pads or contact. Teams can have only one padded practice per day in camp.
"I don't like the restrictions they gave to practice time," Vermeil said of the new rules. "It's going to be hard to get better. The fortunate thing is everybody is operating within the same rules. You just have to do a better job within them. I think it's going to hurt the quarterbacks, especially the young ones. It's going to hurt the medium player, the average guy. How does he get better and hang on the roster next year? How are young kids coming up going to make it when you don't give them any reps?"
Vermeil was in St. Louis promoting his Vermeil Wines. He went through the lobby at Rams Park, checked out the Vince Lombardi Trophy the Rams won after defeating the Tennessee Titans and said it still looks great. He was asked if he missed being a coach.
"Well, I'm too old," quipped the 74-year-old Vermeil, who has been named Coach of the Year in high school, junior college, Division I college and twice in the NFL. "Oh, I miss it. There's no question about that."
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo greeted Vermeil with a hug on the field after the last practice drill. Vermeil then spoke to the team, which applauded him when he was done.
Visiting with Vermeil inspires him, Spagnuolo said.
"I always am when I talk to coach," Spagnuolo said about Vermeil. "I tell you what, he hasn't lost it one bit. He was in it, you could see he feels it. It's important to him. I know he is behind us 100 percent, which I really appreciate.
"I could see it in the guys' eyes when they were watching him. When you are speaking to somebody, you can tell if they are listening or not. They were all glued to coach, and he was great."
Vermeil said he appreciated the chance to address the squad. He kept his talk short and simple.
"I just talked to them about handling adversity and handling it right to get better," Vermeil said. "I told them to make sure they do a better job than anybody else in handling the sort of routines and the league's restrictions. I told them to hold themselves accountable for their future, each and every guy."
Watching practice, second-year quarterback Sam Bradford caught Vermeil's eye.
"He's special. He's already proved that," Vermeil said. "I just think he's got to keep improving."
It was meaningful to the team to hear what Vermeil had to say, Bradford said.
"It was nice having coach Vermeil out there," Bradford said. "Obviously, he did some great things here in St. Louis. He's very well respected. Any time you get a chance to listen to someone like that talk, you want to make sure you pay attention. He obviously knows what it takes to be successful in this league. He's really good."
Vermeil emphasized to the players to rise above the new rules, Bradford said.
"He talked about the new rules and how even thought they restrict some of the things we do, the team that finds a way to do the most within the new rules is going to be the team that succeeds and the team that wins," Bradford said. "He challenged us to find a way to do more and be a team who is able to do the most and who is able to win."