Jets years mostly forgettable for Farrior
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011
Head high, back unbowed, stride slow and sure, James Farrior walks through the Steelers' locker room like he owns it.
As a Steelers starting inside linebacker for the past nine seasons, a defensive co-captain and the second-leading tackler on the team that will play the New York Jets today in the AFC Championship Game, the 14-year veteran looks calm, cool and in control.
It's difficult to believe he once worried about finding a job.
"This was like a last resort for me," Farrior said of signing with the Steelers in 2002.
Farrior was a first-round choice of the Jets in 1997, but the coach who selected him eighth — after trading the No. 1 selection to acquire more picks — admits he misused him.
"We probably mistakenly had him as an outside linebacker because we had such a dire need," said 26-year NFL coach and executive Bill Parcells, who rarely gives interviews but eagerly consented to talk about Farrior. "He didn't get off to the best start."
Farrior had signed a five-year rookie contract with the Jets after negotiations got so contentious that his Pittsburgh-based agent, Ralph Cindrich, said he threatened "to come up there and kick (Parcells' butt). I got hoarse screaming at him.
"Parcells said, 'All you Pittsburgh guys are crazy. Are you always like that?' "
The two reconciled after Cindrich sent Parcells a congratulatory case of Iron City Beer, but when the contract expired in the spring of 2002, the Jets were not eager to re-sign Farrior.
"They made an attempt to sign me, but it was nothing to make me stay," he said.
By that time, Parcells had left the Jets, plunging into a brief fling with broadcasting. Looking back, he said history might have been different were he still running the team.
"I would have made it real difficult for him to leave there," Parcells said. "He was a real pro, great kid, always dependable and reliable. I am very, very proud of what he has accomplished."
Cindrich suggested Farrior explore the Steelers, who were looking for a veteran linebacker to replace Earl Holmes. Why not?
"I didn't have a job at the time, and I was getting nervous," he said.
When told that Parcells would have tried to keep him, Farrior was pleased.
"That's nice to hear, but I am glad things worked out the way they did," he said. "I feel like this is a better fit for me. No offense to the Jets and their organization. They have a great organization. I liked my time there, but this feels like home to me."
With the Steelers, Farrior has signed three contracts worth close to $44 million and developed into one of the league's top inside linebackers. He has been to two Pro Bowls and was All-Pro and runner-up NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.
At 36, he shows few signs of turning into a liability, standing on a streak of 86 consecutive starts after missing only four games in nine seasons.
He relinquished the Steelers' tackle title this year for the first time in eight seasons to Lawrence Timmons, but his 137 stops rank third-best during his time in Pittsburgh. He also tied his career high for sacks (six).
More importantly, he sets a tone.
"It's an honor to be his teammate," tight end Heath Miller said. "That's a good description of him. He's the best. I think he epitomizes what this team wants to be: selfless, hard-working."
Tom Shaw, who trains Farrior in the offseason at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., said his test results in the vertical and standing long jumps are at the same levels they were six years ago. Plus, Shaw said Farrior runs a 4.5-second time in the 40.
"No one does that at his age," he said. "When you hear he's 36, you say 'What?' Guys that age play backup quarterback, kicker, punter."
Cindrich remembers the Steelers getting some criticism when Farrior signed a five-year, $18.25 million contract in 2008 at the age of 33.
"Everyone was pointing toward Levon Kirkland (a former Steelers linebacker who started to slip at the age of 31)," Cindrich said. "But it was apples and oranges. James is a different type of linebacker, a different type of athlete."
The critics faded when Farrior earned his second Pro Bowl berth that season and made six solo tackles in the Steelers' victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
The contract doesn't expire until after the 2012 season, when Farrior will be 38 and concluding his 16th year, but he said he plans to fulfill it.
"I feel like," he said, "I still got a lot of juice in me."Additional Information:
Parcells: Edge could go to Steelers
Former New York Jets coach and general manager Bill Parcells said the Steelers' 22-17 loss to the Jets during the regular season could give the losing team an edge today.
'Psychologically, I think Pittsburgh has an advantage because the Jets beat them in Pittsburgh,' Parcells said when asked to predict a winner. 'So much is at stake that Pittsburgh could have a heightened sense of urgency because (the Steelers) know this team is capable of beating them. And I think they are.'
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