Polamalu's regimen calls OTAs into question
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Legitimate concern about strong safety Troy Polamalu's physical well-being is why the Steelers are permitting him to work out on his own in California while his teammates participate in organized team activities.
Polamalu, who signed a five-year, $33 million contract extension last summer, missed five games and part of another in 2007 because of injuries to his knee, ribs and abdomen. It wasn't one of his best seasons, and it certainly wasn't the best way to usher in his new deal, even though he was named to the Pro Bowl -- a reward that was based more on reputation.
Polamalu has made every Pro Bowl since becoming a starter in 2004. But with a history of concussions and other injuries, Polamalu is in danger of becoming damaged goods.
Trouble is, the trait that makes Polamalu so effective -- his aggressiveness -- is what sent him to the sideline so often last season.
Polamalu plays without regard for his body, launching himself head-first to make jarring tackles. His playing style has come at a physical sacrifice, resulting in him missing eight games since 2006. He underwent knee surgery after last season.
At least six concussions and numerous injuries to other body parts later, Polamalu received permission from coach Mike Tomlin to return to his training roots.
Organized team activities are voluntary, but most players attend. Some Steelers have missed voluntary workouts for personal reasons, but Tomlin is apparently comfortable with Polamalu staying away from the team until training camp opens in late July because he's unable to practice -- even though the foundation for training camp begins with OTAs.
"Of course, Troy's not practicing," Tomlin told reporters last week. "He's just rehabbing."
If the Steelers are so comfortable with Polamalu missing OTAs to train on his own because they are only voluntary workouts, why bother having OTAs at all? Why not permit players to train on their own?
For example, what would the Steelers' reaction be if those players who train with a speed and conditioning coach in Orlando, Fla., skipped OTAs and remained in Florida throughout the offseason?
"For the most part, we've got great team camaraderie," Tomlin said. "We've got the vast majority of our guys working. I'm not going to worry about the few guys, for whatever reason -- legitimate or otherwise -- that aren't here."
As for Polamalu, it's obvious that he doesn't believe the Steelers trainers can help him.
Maybe the Steelers should consider making changes within their training staff that would allow Polamalu to rehabilitate under their supervision.
Teams make exceptions for star players all the time -- and this is clearly one of those times. If Polamalu is healthy for training camp after doing things his way, everyone will be happy -- especially Tomlin, who won't have to explain why he has two sets of rules.