Originally created 07/14/97

NFL notebook



It's time for Dick Vermeil to shake loose the last of the cobwebs.

Beginning today, the St. Louis Rams' general manager and coach presides over his first NFL training camp in 15 years. Aside from adjusting to changes in terminology, Vermeil, 60, feels he's ready to jump back into the game.

As usual since he joined the team, he doesn't seem to be acting his age.

"I'm pumped up, I'm really excited," Vermeil said.

Vermeil last coached in the NFL in 1982, long before free agency and salary caps. He was in the broadcast booth as a college football analyst before signing a five-year deal with the Rams, the league's losingest franchise in the 1990s.

After six months on the job and three minicamps, he feels he has a handle on his team.

"We've got a lot of work to do," he told reporters before leaving for camp in Macomb, Ill., about 150 miles north of St. Louis. `You guys know, you've watched this team play."

During his days as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976-82, Vermeil said he was right on the button three years in a row when predicting his won-lost record for his owner. As for the Rams, who were 6-10 last year and haven't had a winning record since 1989, he's not forecasting yet.

From the day he was hired back in January, Vermeil has promised a disciplined boot camp. He'll save the two-a-days and full contact workouts for the first full-squad practice, set for Friday.

REDSKINS: After practice, Michael Westbrook exchanged his large burgundy brace for a huge ice pack to wrap around his right knee.

When asked about his season's goals, there was no talk of Super Bowl or Pro Bowl.

"Just to stay healthy," the Washington Redskins receiver said. "If I can stay healthy, everything else will take care of itself."

For the third year in a row, the Redskins are counting on Westbrook to be the consistent, big-play threat that can help boost them into the playoffs. It didn't happen in his rookie year, when injuries limited him to just 46 percent of the team's offensive plays. Nor last year, when he was on the field for only 42 percent of the snaps.

No wonder Norv Turner stopped in mid-sentence when asked about Westbrook after Sunday's minicamp practice. Injuries. Potential. Westbrook. The coach realized he was sounding like a broken record.

Westbrook, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 1995, missed five games last season and failed to catch a pass in two others. He caught five passes in a game just twice, and totaled 34 receptions for 505 yards on the season. Two different knee injuries kept him hobbling almost all season, and he underwent surgery in January hoping it would fix the problems for good.

After months of rehabilitation, including a strong off-season weight program, Westbrook is running his first practice pass patterns in this final minicamp before the start of training camp on Thursday.

DOLPHINS: Former University of South Carolina running back Stanley Pritchett is expected to miss a few days of workouts after twisting his left knee in drills Friday. Tests indicate he sustained a sprain to the medial collateral ligament, but it's not believed to be serious.

Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said Pritchett should be out at least five days.

Pritchett started all 16 games as a rookie last season, and was most effective blocking and catching passes out of the backfield. While he only had seven carries for 33 yards, he had 33 receptions for 354 yards and two touchdowns.