Even at 37, Dwight Freeney showing young guys how it’s done
SEATTLE (AP) — After Dwight Freeney arrived in Seattle, Frank Clark immediately started soaking up everything that Freeney did.
Even the little things like how Freeney prepared for a practice became notes that Clark stored away. It was the kind of preparation the third-year defensive end hadn’t seen to that extent.
“His preparation. How long he takes. Practice starts at 2 p.m., he’s going to take an hour-and-a-half to get ready for that practice,” Clark said. “I’m not sure if that’s because of his age, I’m not sure if it’s because he’s 16 years in, but at the end of the day it has something to do with why he’s played 16 years. I’m sure it didn’t just come overnight. I’m sure it’s something he’s going to continue to do.”
Freeney doesn’t necessarily disagree with what Clark has been noticing.
“Now, it takes me 45 minutes to do anything,” he joked.
It’s only been three games, but Freeney’s influence has already been noticed on the field and in the locker room. Freeney’s fourth game with Seattle will come against a familiar foe when the Seahawks host Atlanta on Monday night. Freeney has already passed former teammate Robert Mathis on the all-time sacks list and is one behind Derrick Thomas for 16th.
Atlanta knows firsthand the kind of boost Freeney can provide. It was a year ago the Falcons signed Freeney to be their pass-rush specialist. He played in 15 regular-season games as Atlanta had the best record in the NFC and reached the Super Bowl. Freeney had three sacks in the regular season with Atlanta, a number he’s already matched with Seattle.
Secondary to what he added on the field, Freeney became a valued resource for Atlanta coach Dan Quinn simply for his experience as a player.
“I would see him walking down the hallway looking at his iPad, just watching pass rush, so I was so impressed by the way he approached the game,” Quinn said. “His preparation — and it really rubbed off on me in a positive way and the connection with him was really strong. We leaned on him for thoughts and ideas because he had that type of command of what he was doing.”
This isn’t by accident that at 37 years old Freeney is still finding ways to influence what’s happening on the field. He’s taken exceptional care of his body, to the point of having his own hyperbaric chamber he uses regularly to help in recovery.
“I lay in there and I’ve got my phone and I’ve got my film that I’m watching,” Freeney said.
Clearly all the efforts in recovery and preparation are making a difference for Freeney. Clark joked the only way to tell that Freeney is in his late 30s is to look at the top of his head and see the flecks of gray hair that are starting to move in. Freeney still has the ability to rush the passer in a variety of ways, none more famous than his spin move.
“It’s pretty funny that after 16 years, he did the spin move on over 100 different left tackles, that it’s still able to work,” Clark said. “It’s weird. There’s some trick or mastery to it. I don’t know it. I’m sure nobody else knows it other than Dwight.”
There was a hope both from the Falcons and Freeney of finding his way back to Atlanta this season. Freeney waited, but the phone call never came from the Falcons, and Seattle was in need of additional pass rush help after Cliff Avril was placed on injured reserve due to a neck injury.
Freeney will get his chance to show the Falcons what he still has left, but it won’t be easy for Freeney, Clark or Michael Bennett to get to Matt Ryan. The Falcons are eighth in the NFL in sacks allowed with just 15 through nine games.
“That’s why I keep hanging out, because I’m having so much fun out there doing it,” Freeney said. “It’s something you can’t really replace that feeling and that emotion and those moments.”