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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Dwight Freeney: "Like First Day of Kindergarten"
The day began with much anticipation.
For weeks, fans have waited to see what seven-time Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney looked like in a Chargers uniform.
That day was Wednesday.
Once a rival, Freeney practiced for the first time as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
“Today was a good day,” Freeney said. “(It was) a little bit of sensory overload, trying to catch up with all the scheme and new terminology that’s going on, but it was good to be around football again.”
Wearing No. 95, Freeney switched off working with the defensive lineman and linebackers, but admitted it was odd not to see his former Colts teammates next to him on the practice field.
“It’s still strange,” Freeney said. “Not a lot of familiar faces. (General Manager) Tom Telesco, he’s there, but for the most part, it’s a fresh, new start. That’s what friends text me, ‘It’s like your first day of kindergarten.’ It’s kind of like new school, new guy, but it’s fun.”
A fresh, new start along with opportunities to succeed were selling points for Freeney.
“I think the biggest thing was (defensive coordinator John Pagano) was going to allow me to do a little bit of what I do,” Freeney said of why he chose to sign with San Diego. “It was ‘Dwight, here, we’re going to take you and put you into this (rather) than do things that you’re not used to doing.’ He said, ‘We’re going to (put you in) places to make plays and familiar places so that you’re comfortable and you can just ball out.’ I think that was the biggest thing.”
Freeney signed with the Chargers on May 18 after spending 11 years with the Indianapolis Colts. During his time with the Colts, Freeney amassed 107.5 career sacks, the most in Colts history, 298 tackles and 44 forced fumbles, while being named First-team All-Pro three times, AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. In 2004, Freeney led the NFL with 16 sacks in just his third season.
This past season, Freeney played in 14 games, starting 12 of them, and recorded 12 tackles and five sacks after shifting from defensive end to outside linebacker when the Colts changed to a 3-4 defense under head coach Chuck Pagano. Though it was not his best year, Freeney doesn’t believe that’s due to the 3-4 defense.
Freeney also looks forward to helping out with the young players on defense.
“It is exciting seeing some young talent out there,” Freeney said. “That learning curve’s going to start spiking soon because I remember when I was in my second or third year, I was just kind of like, ‘Oh, so that’s how you do it.’ For me to be around those guys and help them however I can and they’re going to help me, give me the energy, the youth back on my side. It’s going to be fun. … I cannot wait to sit down with them and just kind of pick their brain and give them some knowledge, a little bit of things that I’ve experienced to see how we can work together.”
Whether on the field sacking the quarterback or tutoring the young guys, Freeney figures to have a large impact on the Chargers this season.