Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vermeil Puts Premium on Character

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vermeil Puts Premium on Character

Article excerpt

Dick Vermeil wants to help Lawrence Phillips. But if he had his choice, he wouldn't have volunteered for the assignment.

Asked if a Vermeil-led draft would have selected Phillips, he replied: "I don't think so. You have enough problems winning football games to bring more problems into it. With a first-round pick, I don't think you take many chances."

Vermeil, always glib and frequently outspoken since being hired by the Rams, made his comments during a coaches media breakfast Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. In Philadelphia more than 15 years ago, Vermeil didn't have much tolerance for problem players. He simply ran them off. "But times have changed. My attitude toward things have changed," Vermeil said. He figures to be more patient in St. Louis. "Part of it's the salary cap," Vermeil said. "Part of it's that I've got to correct the mistakes that other people made. I didn't bring all these guys here (to St. Louis). Five years down the road, maybe we don't have these kind of players." Why not? "My philosophy is to draft and sign free agents who have character traits instilled in them long before they ever became football players," Vermeil said. "That way, the National Football League's positive and negative influences won't affect them." Character players can be identified through evaluation and research, checking and double-checking. "You invest a lot of time in them," Vermeil said. "We're going to start bringing in the early round picks we think we might draft and meet with them." The previous regime, headed by general manager Steve Ortmayer and coach Rich Brooks, thought they had done the same with Phillips. Not long before the draft, Ortmayer, Brooks and former running backs coach Johnny Roland had lunch with Phillips at a Clayton restaurant. "We satisfied ourselves about Lawrence Phillips the person, Lawrence Phillips the human being," Ortmayer said the day after drafting Phillips. …

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