Monday, July 28, 2008 Updated: July 29, 2:34 PM ET
Steelers safety Polamalu sits out practice with pulled hamstring
LATROBE, Pa. -- Every extended workout, every running session, every climb up a hillside in weighted shoes was designed for Troy Polamalu to get back to being Troy Polamalu.
Most of all, that meant getting back to being a healthy Polamalu -- not the patched-up, oft-injured, can't-seem-to-get-well Polamalu who appeared in 12 Pittsburgh Steelers games last season but played up to his expected level in few of them.
So, after an offseason back in Los Angeles working out the way he did as one of college football's top defensive players at Southern Cal, what happened to Polamalu mere days before training camp began?
The four-time Pro Bowl safety pulled his left hamstring while running and couldn't take part in the first two camp practices Monday.
After a season in which knee, rib and abdominal injuries visibly affected Polamalu's play -- he hasn't had an interception since midway through the 2006 season -- Polamalu was certain all these injuries were behind him.
Polamalu sailed through the eight 100-yard sprints that were required Sunday by coach Mike Tomlin, but the Steelers didn't want to take a chance with one of their most valuable players so early in camp.
"I want to practice," Polamalu said Monday. "But I'll do whatever coach tells me to do. He's been around a long time. So has [trainer] John Norwig, so I'll defer to them on this. But I want to practice."
Tomlin said Polamalu "is in great shape," but he is understandably wary about any injury given Polamalu's run of problems last season.
On the first day of camp a year ago, Polamalu signed a $30.19 million, four-year contract that made him the highest paid player in team history -- at least until quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed earlier this year to a deal that could pay him as much as $102 million.
Living up to that contract isn't what motivates Polamalu. Rather, it's playing up to the standards set by a multidimensional, motivated player who creates matchup problems for offenses because of his ability to line up at so many positions.
That's why after having offseason knee surgery Polamalu decided to return to training the way he has most of his career. So he skipped all the Steelers' offseason practices and the traditional training and weightlifting, and went back to working with his former trainer.
"I talked with coach [Tomlin] because I don't want to do anything against the team," Polamalu said. "They're very supportive of me and the training I wanted to do. I'd trained like that for seven years but, coming off the injury, it gave me an opportunity to take more time to rehab and just train."
An interesting twist: Marv Marinovich, the former Southern Cal and Oakland Raiders player and conditioning coach with whom Polamalu has long trained, promises on his Web site that his workouts mean "you'll avoid the injury bug. No more pulls or strains."
Marinovich's workouts are designed to boost speed, jumping ability and football-required strength but are nontraditional, with an emphasis on reducing the stress and strain that can be caused by heavy weightlifting.
Rather than bench pressing 350 pounds, for example, Polamalu will run in weighted shoes or lift a minimal amount of weight in short bursts.
Polamalu did slightly more weight training than he once did, but only to add weight. He is back to his preferred weight of 215 pounds after playing at 205 the last two seasons.
Polamalu called Marinovich's program "very awesome" and doesn't believe training away from the Steelers had anything to do with his latest injury. He can only hope he is getting his injuries out of the way early this season.
"When there's an injury like this, it's always best to take the safe route because it's a very long season," he said. "If you continue to re-injure it this early, there's no telling how bad it could really get. So, if there's any down time that's good, it's right now."