Despite his continuing unhappiness with his contract status, six-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca will report to the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp on time next Monday afternoon, for what he reiterated will be his final season with the franchise.
"I don't think I'll have bells on, but I'll be there," Faneca told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Faneca's agent, Rick Smith, told ESPN.com that his client would report to camp and play out the final year of his contract.
"He'll do what he has to do," Smith said.
The Steelers' top lineman, a team captain and a fixture at left guard since moving into the starting lineup midway through his rookie campaign, Faneca is entering the final year of his contract. Barring an extension, Faneca will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2007 season. It is doubtful the Steelers would use the franchise tag to retain Faneca's rights.
Earlier this spring, the Steelers proposed an extension, but the dollar figures were not in line with the new standard being established at the guard position, and Smith said the offer was well shy of expectations.
Guards like Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery, Leonard Davis and Kris Dielman all signed new contracts this spring, either as free agents with new teams or extensions with their incumbent franchises, and all received deals worth about $7 million per year. None of those players has ever appeared in a Pro Bowl game.
Faneca has a base salary of $3.375 million for 2007 and the team earlier this spring paid out a $1 million roster bonus he was due. Given his stance on playing this year and then moving to another team in 2008, there was speculation the Steelers might attempt to trade Faneca this spring, but there were never any serious discussions toward that end.
The nine-year veteran skipped all of the Steelers' organized team activities (OTAs) sessions under first-year coach Mike Tomlin this spring. He did attend the mandatory minicamp in mid-May. But he missed one practice of that weekend session when he became upset at a comment one Pittsburgh official reportedly made and left the team's complex. Faneca then returned to the minicamp after a chat with Tomlin but made it clear he would not be back with the club until it convened for training camp at St. Vincent College.
Faneca said he will not allow his contract situation to become a distraction.
"I'm going to go about my business and play football," Faneca said. "Any distractions would be through the media and how they perceive me going about my business."
One of the league's top in-line blockers, Faneca publicly questioned the franchise's choice of Tomlin as the successor to former head coach Bill Cowher. He noted he felt the job should have gone to offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who was a finalist for the position. Grimm subsequently left the Steelers to join the staff of another former Pittsburgh assistant, Ken Whisenhunt, who is the Arizona Cardinals' new head coach.
Faneca, 30, was the team's first-round choice in the 1998 draft, one of only nine guards chosen in the first rounds of the past 10 drafts. The former LSU standout has missed only two games in his career and has started in 137 of 142 contests in which he has appeared.
Pittsburgh is the first team in the league to report to camp. Players are scheduled to check in Monday, with the first practice set for Tuesday morning.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.