Linebacker James Farrior is 33 but plays like he's 23. The oldest starter on the Steelers keeps going and going.
Farrior has made 38 consecutive starts, and he led the team in tackles for the fourth time in five seasons in 2007. His ability to be productive and remain healthy in a contact sport where injuries are commonplace is no accident.
When Farrior reports tomorrow for Steelers organized team activities, he'll look like he hasn't missed a beat.
That's because he's always working out.
Since the Steelers broke minicamp May 4, Farrior and some of his teammates have been training with noted speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw at Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"Some guys take five or six weeks off, and then they go to OTA's out of shape and have to train their way back in shape. James Farrior is doing stuff that other guys aren't doing," Shaw said.
Farrior has been a starter with the Steelers since 2002. He has recorded 100 or more tackles in five consecutive seasons, indicating a high level of physical toughness and conditioning for a player also known for his football smarts.
"Every year there's a new draft, every year there's somebody that wants to take his place," Shaw said. "Every year it's going to be tougher and tougher for Potsie (Farrior's nickname) to make that team, because every year they're bringing in a new linebacker. James wants to be in better shape than everybody on the team."
Shaw said the Steelers have more players train with him than any NFL team. Most recently, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker Larry Foote joined Farrior in Florida.
When the players reconvene in Florida following the Steelers' final OTA session next month, Shaw said he expects linebacker James Harrison and cornerback Bryant McFadden to join a group of about 40 NFL players.
"Ike moved here just to train. Guys that are coming down here are following Ike. James (Farrior) has been with me my whole career," said Shaw, who worked in a similar capacity with the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints and was one of Deion Sanders' track coaches at Florida State. "Santonio was here before he got with the Steelers. Larry Foote was here before he got to the Steelers.
"The Steelers have a really good strength coach (Garrett Giemont). Some of the guys that come down, they're still doing the strength program and they're not trying to get out of anything. They still contact him. They follow his plan really well. It's just the camaraderie of the group all in Florida."
Most drills are relatively short and concentrate on developing speed, power, agility, reaction time and quickness. Holmes and other receivers are requried to run 10 consecutive pass patterns as a way of developing the stamina required to play in a game.
"He's doing 10 routes in less than one minute, 45 seconds, and then he has two minutes rest," Shaw said. "And then we're going to work our way to five sets so that he'll be able to run 50 routes, which he may not do in a whole game.
"One day we're doing speed work, the next day we're doing cutting with metabolics. We're training to be (position) specific so you can go back and last the whole season. It's stuff to get their bodies to recover."