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Summer vacation isn't always a break for Steelers

By Dan Stefano
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Summer vacation started Friday for the Steelers.

When the final organized team activity wrapped up one day earlier, it was the last time the players would be on the same field until they report to training camp next month.

But it didn't mark the beginning of a six-week break for most Steelers. It only began the portion of the offseason when they try to find the happy medium between working out and resting.

"You don't want to try to work too hard," linebacker James Farrior said. "At the same time, you want to be in the best shape you can be when training camp starts, so it's a little balancing act that you have to maintain."

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Camp opens July 27 in Latrobe and breaks Aug. 18. In the span of those 23 days, the team will have 17 days of practice -- many being of the two-a-day variety -- in what likely will be a hot and humid environment.

"It's all going to be different on your body," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "So you have to plan out your activities leading up to it."

Tight end Heath Miller said those plans can sometimes consist of players totally removing themselves from the game to refresh their minds and bodies. As for the fourth-year veteran, he'll be leaping forward.

"For me, it's time to put the pedal down and pick up my training," Miller said. "It's something I did in college, and it's always worked, so I'm afraid to change it."

Miller conceded that there is room for a little rest, here and there. Farrior, on the other hand, has his relaxation schedule already planned out.

"Weekends," he said. "You save it for the weekends. You work Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday is your rest time."

Even if they go full tilt for seven days a week, most players take the week before camp off, Holmes said.

Left tackle Marvel Smith can attest to that. The nine-year veteran's offseason routine normally includes a week-long trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, right before camp to allow him to relax his mind. Of course, with football never being too far way, he works out every day he's south of the border.

Rookies Ryan Mundy and Limas Sweed have plans for trips, too -- just not to resorts, unfortunately. They'll be visiting their old schools to train with former college teammates and current professionals. This week, Mundy will head to Michigan, where he spent four years before transferring to West Virginia. The safety will train with a group that contains some new teammates, such as linebacker Larry Foote, and some new rivals, such as Cleveland Browns receiver Braylon Edwards.

"We could have a nice little all-star team," Mundy said.

Sweed, a wide receiver from Texas, will travel to the Lone Star State to work out with a group that includes Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.

"I feel like, being a rookie, I'm really in no position to take days off," Sweed said. "I always have to be going at it. I always have to be learning, because it's my job."

Being a veteran doesn't translate into getting a free pass from keeping in shape, according to Farrior, who is entering his 12th season.

"As you get older, you've got to start (training) a little bit earlier, because it takes a little bit longer to get into the kind of shape that you want to be in," he said.

Regardless of experience, the Steelers will approach the coming weeks in varying ways to prepare for -- and find a respite from -- the long haul of training camp and the regular season.

"(In) football now, you've got to work out all year," Smith said. "It isn't really taking breaks. It's knowing when to push yourself hard and when to not stop working out but take a few steps back."

Dan Stefano can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com.
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