Ageless Farrior is ready, as usual


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nothing really seems to bother James Farrior.

Not that he will be four months shy of his 37th birthday if and when the Steelers open their 2011 season on schedule. Not that he will be entering his 15th year as one of the ageless wonders in the NFL.

Or that, at 225 pounds, he is the inside linebacker and captain of the league's top defense.

He isn't even worried that the Steelers will have problems regrouping from a lockout that for five months has kept players from working at their team facilities and speaking with their coaches.

In fact, that seems to be the least of his concerns.

"I don't think it's going to hurt our team," Farrior said. "It's not like we have a lot of new people. We don't have new coaches or new quarterbacks or things like that. With the veterans we have, we'll be able to manage. Everybody is going through the same thing. It's not like one team will be at a disadvantage."

Farrior, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has taken advantage of the lockout to spend more time than usual working out at Tom Shaw's Performance Camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. With no offseason training activities to attend in Pittsburgh, he has joined several of his teammates -- cornerbacks Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden and William Gay -- pushing his 36-year-old body through tough conditioning sessions in the searing Florida sun.

Farrior is the oldest of the approximate 25 NFL players who take part in Shaw's fitness camp. But that didn't stop him from running the same agility drills as players much younger than him, one of whom is former teammate and Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes.

And they weren't easy drills, either. Up and down a hillside, forward and backward, cutting around cones, stepping through ropes.

"That's what motivates him," said Taylor, who lets Farrior and his other teammates stay in the house he recently purchased in the Orlando area. "That's what keeps him going."

Farrior is like a lot of veteran players -- he actually enjoys that he doesn't have to be committed to taking part in OTAs on the South Side. They quietly don't complain about that aspect of the lockout.

"I understand what OTAs are for and why guys need it, but not me," Farrior was saying the other day, in between workouts at the complex. "Younger guys, they need it, they get to see the system, they get to see the plays. It's pretty much their first intro before training camp. I've been around long enough.

"But I've been able to work out down here a little more. That's been a big difference."

This time last year, the Steelers were concerned about Farrior, worried that he might be slowing down. It was one of the reasons they brought back inside linebacker Larry Foote in free agency -- to serve as insurance in case Farrior started to show his age in training camp.

But that was never an issue, not in camp, not during the regular season. Farrior finished as the team's second-leading tackler (137) -- his eighth consecutive season with at least 100 tackles -- and tied his career high with six sacks.

He was the ringleader of a rush defense that was the best in Steelers history and third best in NFL history since the league went to a 16-game season. Game in, game out, he was the team's best and most consistent linebacker.

"I feel good," Farrior said. "I'm 225, which is the same weight I've reported the last couple years. We should be good again. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't."

Farrior's not worried. Never is.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @gerrydulac.


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