He may be entering his 12th season. He may be coming to a new team after spending his entire career in one place. And he may be playing a position that he switched to last season. But one thing remains constant.
All you have to do is watch him and the arsenal of pass rush moves he unleashes each day, especially his patented spin move that elicits constant cheers from the fans.
“It feels good because it’s still there and I think it always will be,” he said. “Like I told some guys the other day, I think I’ll probably stop walking straight before I stop spinning. That thing is always going to be there. It may be a little bit rusty with camp just beginning, but it will be ready to go for the season.”
If that was what rusty looks like, opposing offensive linemen will look as silly this season, just as Freeney has made them look his entire career. Over 11 years with the Indianapolis Colts, he’s recorded a team-record 107.5 sacks 378 tackles, 44 forced fumbles, 14 passes defensed and three interceptions. He became only the 26th player in NFL history to record over 100 sacks, and fittingly has earned a ton of accolades. Besides seven Pro Bowl selections, Freeney was named All- Pro four times, was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and was selected to the NFL’s all-Decade Team for the 2000s. He also won Super Bowl XLI with Indianapolis in 2006.
Freeney clearly put together a legendary career in Indy. So how does it feel to now wear the bolt instead of the Colts’ horseshoe?
“It feels good,” he said with a broad smile. “Not everything stays the same. That’s kind of what the National Football League stands for –not for long. I was blessed to be with the Colts for 11 years but it was time for change. And it’s going well out here. It’s business as usual. This is training camp 12 for me. It’s great to be back out here and have the energy from the guys. I’m getting a chance to start a new year. The people and fans out here in San Diego are really great. I’m really blessed to play at a place with great people, great teammates, great fans and great weather. I’m just going to try my best and try my hardest, and hopefully that’s enough.””
While he is embarking on a new journey in San Diego, he believes the main reason he is here is because of an old friend.
“The reason why I am here is because of Tom (Telesco),” Freeney said of the Chargers first-year general manager. We have a great relationship. Tom knows what kind of guy I am and I know what type of guy Tom is. It’s comfortable for me having him here, and I think he’s comfortable too.”
Two people who are definitely comfortable having Freeney on board are defensive coordinator John Pagano and linebackers coach Joe Barry.
“John is a trip,” he laughed. “But I love him. I love him to death. He’s one of us. He understands the game and knows how to cater to the strengths of a particular player. Joe is a great guy too. I mean Joe, he is so committed to what he’s doing and just getting guys better no matter if they are young or old. He just loves the game of football and you can tell he really knows what he’s doing.”
Some critics have voiced concern over Freeney’s ability to play linebacker after being a defensive end for the first 10 years of his career. Freeney, however, doesn’t pay any heed to those comments. He is confident he will have a strong season for the Chargers.
“This is my second year as a linebacker, and it’s a lot different than last year which was my very first time doing it,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to change guys tendencies from doing something after 11 years, but with this being my second year I’m going to be ok.”
Even though this is his first year on the squad and he has only been here for a little over two months, Freeney is determined to be a leader on defense.
“I absolutely am taking on a leadership role,” he said. “I think it comes with the territory. I’ve been in the league for a while and I’ve got a lot to teach the guys. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand there and be rah-rah, but you take some guys to the side, help them out and give them a little pointer here and there and keep moving. We have a lot of great players on this defense and I just hope to add a complement to what they have already established here.”
Be sure to visit Chargers Park during open training camp practices or FanFest to watch Freeney and the defense in action. Click here for more information.