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Troy Polamalu's lack of weight training has led many fans to believe it's the cause of his injury-plagued 2007 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers' strong safety returns to the lineup and hopes to prove otherwise.

PITTSBURGH – Every week, Troy Polamalu talks to his uncle and the primary topic of conversation is Troy's health.

Routine? Sure, but with Troy and his Uncle Kennedy Pola, it's never just small talk.

"He checks on me every week to make sure I'm healthy and doing well," said Polamalu. "He gives advice to me about how to take care of my body, because he knows the other side of dealing with injuries."

Troy's uncle is the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars and few can argue with his knowledge. Kennedy Pola came to the Jaguars from the Cleveland Browns in 2005, and in 2006 coached Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a franchise record for most rushing yards (2,087) by two players. The total was second in the NFL last season.

This season, the 31-year-old Taylor is once again running like a youngster. He's on a three-game streak of 100-yard games as he (944, 4.9 avg.) and Jones-Drew (655, 4.5) have combined for 1,599 yards through 13 games. The Jacksonville combo ranks second in the league to Minnesota's combo (1,916) of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.

And this means exactly what to Polamalu?

Well, his mother's brother knows athletes, and he cares about this one in particular. "He knows the other side," Polamalu said. "He knows how coaches push, how management pushes, and how they treat injured players. So it's nice to have somebody who sees the other side.

"That's not to say [players and teams] are not on the same side," Polamalu added, "but their focus is on winning and not really for the welfare of the players."

Polamalu, of course, is in the midst of an injury-plagued season. He's missed four games with, first, a rib injury and, second, a sprained knee. He's returning to the lineup this week against the Jaguars after missing three consecutive games with the latter injury, and he's looking for his first sack and/or interception.

By those numbers, it's been an unproductive season for Polamalu, who'd averaged 3.3 interceptions, 2.3 sacks and 93 tackles per season since becoming a starter in 2004. This season, his numbers are 0-0-59.

Not that he's complaining. When asked to grade his performance this season, Polamalu said: "I don't know. When I grade myself, I've got to grade myself on how good our team is. Physically, probably not very well, but as a team defense we're doing okay."

It's become commonplace to blame Polamalu's injuries and relative lack of production on his fading physique. Polamalu is listed at 207 pounds, which seems a bit high. He entered the league at 210 and admits he's lost a lot of bulk.

"Yeah, looking back on film, I definitely have. My first two years I was bigger," he said.

How is it affecting him?

"I think good," he said. "I think it helps me out. It gives me a little more agility."

But, what about the injuries?

"The injuries I've sustained this year are kind of freak injuries: Being at the wrong place at the wrong time, people hitting me low. It has nothing to do with the athletic state that I'm in. To be quite honest, if I had the bulk, the injuries might've been worse because I'm more focused on flexibility. If I have that, like rubber, it's easier to bend. But if it's a wooden stick, it'd snap."

In spite of appearances, Polamalu said he still lifts weights. "I just do it in a different type of way," he said.

And what does Uncle Kennedy think of his program?

"He's all for things like that," Polamalu said. "He actually trained with my trainer."

It's hard to argue with your mother's brother, particularly when he's your trainer's trainee. Or the guy who coaches Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.


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