Tomlin back to business

For the most rabid football fans, the stretch of days between the end of June minicamp and the start of training camp in late-July is nothing short of torture. Mike Tomlin has felt the same way. With camp just four days away, the Steelers new head coach is really, really excited to get back to football.

PITTSBURGH – Mike Tomlin was so bored these past few weeks he played golf.

"Twice," he said.

Now that's some kind of bored. But it had to be more fun than his visit to Sea World.

"Let me tell you," Tomlin said, "Florida in July with three little kids is not a good time for the parents."

The new coach of the Steelers sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The opening of training camp was only four days away from his Thursday morning press conference. He was asked – twice - by TV reporters how he feels.

"I feel alive," he said, and his expression showed that he meant it.

"I love this. I love football. I would coach it year around if I could."

No one in the room doubted Tomlin, the infectious, high-energy motivator who replaced Bill Cowher. Tomlin will do things his way, starting with a conditioning test on the same day – Monday – the players report. And the conditioning test will be a surprise, as might most of the camp. Tomlin said the camp schedule he put together is "thoughtfully non-rhythmic." Here's a more clear definition:

"We want to come out a hardened unit and the only way you can do that is if you are challenged in a lot of ways," he said. "Development of mental toughness and the ability to answer the bell in unique circumstances are important. We will be faced with situations in the year where we will play on a Sunday and then have to come back on a Thursday and play a football game and the standards aren't going to change. We are going to be required to win a football game. That is what training camp is all about. You put guys in situations that put them outside their comfort zone and make them a little bit uncomfortable and you see who is able to deal with it. Those who struggle with it become aware of it and they grow because it all mirrors the challenges that lie ahead. It is not going to be comfortable to play at home Sunday and then go on the road Thursday night, but guess what? The standards and expectations aren't going to change. We have to go win. That is what training camp is all about. That is why we will be thoughtfully non-rhythmic and do some of the things that we do with the scheduling."

He's scheduled 15 two-a-days, but most of those morning workouts are one-hour practices that will emphasize special teams. Tomlin said there'll be plenty of goal-line work and physical work in general, because: "You have to put them in situations where they can turn the volume up every once in a while and we are going to do that."

But he's not just doing it to set a tone.

"It is training camp and it's the '07 season and we are going to do the very best that we can," he said. "I am not looking at this as a tone-setter or how this camp is going to compare to camps in the future and camps in the past. We have to be prepared to be our very best and that's how we are approaching it."

NOTES – Tomlin said he, not the team, will name the captains this season. … Return man Willie Reid, who admitted that he missed spring workouts because of a second foot injury, is 100 percent healthy, as is first-round pick Lawrence Timmons, who'll practice as a right outside linebacker. … Willie Colon will open camp as a right tackle, but Tomlin said he's "capable of competing and being in our top five so we need position flexibility to see if he is capable of doing that, whether if it is at right tackle, whether it is at center or guard." … Chukky Okobi will open as the first-team center. … On quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Tomlin said, "I know on a personal note that he has some critics to answer, which is great; whatever motivates people to do their best. I am very pleased where he is at and how he has taken to the changes around here. He has behaved like a franchise quarterback." … The first practice that'll be open to the public is Tuesday, July 24 at 2:55 p.m. … Second-round pick LaMarr Woodley officially signed his four-year contract Thursday and pocketed a $1.4 million signing bonus.

*Read the full transcript here.

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