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Steelers' Gay focuses on conditioning

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spoke to his players following their final off-season practice last month, cornerback William Gay listened intently.

"Coach told us physical conditioning is what he's looking for when we come back (for training camp)," Gay said Tuesday. "I want to be in top-notch shape, so I can go through the grind of the season.

"(Tomlin) doesn't play around. He sat Casey Hampton down (at the start of training camp last summer). That's something you don't want to do. You want to be part of the unit. If (Tomlin) says, 'I want you to be in physical condition,' you must be in physical condition, or he's going to sit you down."

One of four Steelers — along with former teammates Bryant McFadden and Ricardo Colclough — training this week at Tom Shaw Performance at Disney's Wide World of Sports, Gay has followed Tomlin's advice.

"I feel like I could be ready to go into training camp if it started (today)," Gay said. "That's what I came down for. I came to get in shape. It's giving a promise to the rest of the defense I'm going to come in the best shape possible."

The starting left cornerback's job is Gay's to lose. He replaces McFadden, who signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals, while also moving ahead of veteran Deshea Townsend on the depth chart.

Gay has progressed significantly since he was drafted in the fifth round two years ago.

He's joining the NFL's top-ranked defense that helped produce a victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

"This is my opportunity," he said. "I'm out here battling, trying to outwork anybody trying to take my position. That's what I plan on doing in training camp. I just want to continue the ball rolling. We had an excellent season last year, and we only want it to improve."

To that end, Gay has taken measures to elevate his game.

Gay enlisted the help of teammates Ike Taylor, the other starting cornerback, defensive captain James Farrior and Super Bowl MVP and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who encouraged Gay to join them in Florida.

"Entering my first year of starting, I wanted to do it," Gay said. "As great as Ike has been, I was like, I've got to go down there and work out with him, so I know exactly what he's doing to prepare himself. Ike is like my big brother.

"James Farrior, he's like our father. That's the kind of leadership he brings on and off the field.

"Santonio came down here last year and turned it into an MVP season. That's what I'm striving for."

Gay said the workouts in the Florida heat have been more difficult than he expected — but productive.

"It's more than I expected," he said. "I heard the history about Tom Shaw. Everybody around here is a competitor. That brings a more elite performance out of the workouts.

"If Tom says me and Ike have two exercises, we'll be competing with each other to where we'll do more than he says. We get to talk smack to each other — I can outwork you; he can outwork me. The next thing you know, it goes from two to four exercises.

"I wasn't doing that (before). I'd just do what the coach says, and then, I'm off the field because I didn't have anybody next to me, pushing me."

The Steelers' training camp begins July 31 at St. Vincent College.

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