Troy Polamalu (S)-Pittsburgh Steelers
Polamalu's 2012 season was derailed by a lingering calf injury that limited him to seven games. The injury raised questions about whether age was catching up to him. The 32-year-old has modified his off-season training regimen in an effort to put the injury questions behind him. Polamalu could be living on borrowed time because he has the second-highest safety salary-cap number for 2014 at $10,887,500. The past off-season has not been kind to veteran safeties with extremely high cap numbers. Charles Woodson's and Michael Huff's cap numbers were $9,437,500 and $11,288,500, respectively, when they were released.
The thing that you wish older players clearly at the end of their trail could accept is the physical condition of their body... and how it should change their approach to full seasons. Troy said it best, about evolving. But the reality is that guys who have reached the pinnacle in their sport, let hubris get the best of them. Ego... and it short circuits what could still be really fine seasons for them.
Brett Favre is a perfect example. It was clear that Favre could still play. The problem was in trying to play the full 16 (continuing his streak). Anyone with two eyes could see him wear down late in the season... and then, a spent Brett Favre couldn't ratchet it up like the young guys anymore, and he peter'd out. It's the same with Polamalu. They need to be able to manage his minutes. I have no doubt that Troy can still play at a pretty high level. But I have serious doubts, on whether he can last a full 16, let alone til 2014 when his contract runs out. AND... while he may play all 16, or close to it... what when the intensity rises in the playoffs, how much will he have then--when it really counts?? These are things that players and coaches need to have in their heads, if they are true "professionals".