One call from Bruce Arians changed Dwight Freeney’s career plans

10-21 dwight freeney

BY: ED COLE

TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals outside linebacker Dwight Freeney made the most of his 28 snaps against the Packers on Sunday. He had three tackles, all of which were sacks (if that’s not incredible enough). Two of the tackles were for loss and he had three quarterback hits, two of which were on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the other on quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Freeney’s been nothing short of a godsend since he arrived with the team in mid-October. In the 10 games he’s been on the active roster, he’s already gotten seven sacks, which blows away everything he did with the San Diego Chargers – 4.0 sacks in 20 games – in the two seasons he was with them prior to him signing with Arizona.

And to think, Freeney was a week away from retiring when fate stepped in and put a hold on those plans.

“Honestly, I was actually in L.A. I was looking to do some type of TV, whatever it is that guys transition into (after football),” Freeney said. “As the door (to the airplane) was falling, I look at my phone and it’s (Cardinals head coach) Bruce Arians calling me. I pick it up, (and) the flight attendant is telling me to get off the phone, (and) I’m like, ‘Hold on, hold on.’ He said, ‘Are you ready to get off that couch?’ I said, ‘Absolutely,’ and then I met these guys in West Virginia.”

“It’s been a great ride so far,” Freeney said. “This is why I came back to play with these types of guys. These players, these coaches, (and to) have these types of moments that you can’t duplicate. When it’s over, it’s over. It’s like a drug; you just have to keep coming back, and for me, I just love this type of thing.”

Freeney was part of some excellent teams in Indianapolis. Obviously he got the heavy majority of his sacks while he was with the Colts and he won a Super Bowl title with them as well. It was hard on him when his time with the Colts had ended, and he moved onto the Chargers for those two seasons, because he was so used to winning each and every year.

Freeney had quite a few teams who were interested in him when he was in that transition phase of his life and career, but none of them could stand up to what Arians and the Cardinals had to offer.

“I would say about four, five, six (other teams), but I wanted to got to the right team,” Freeney said. “I didn’t want to go to a losing team. I’ve done enough losing. I don’t like losing. I’m spoiled I guess. When I was in Indy, we kept winning, winning and winning. I like to be part of a winning team, and this team called, and I couldn’t turn it down.”

Freeney’s decision to join the Cardinals mid-season clearly turned out to be the right decision for him, because he’s with the hottest team in the NFL right now. After Sunday’s 38-8 pasting of the Packers, the Cardinals are at a place in their storied history where they’ve never been to before – 13-2. This team’s never won more than 11 games in a regular season before this particular season, and a lot of credit has to go to the team’s head man: Arians.

Arians was tossed to the side so many times and disregarded when it came to the topic of him becoming a head coach in the NFL, but he’s shown all the naysayers wrong in the three seasons he’s been Arizona’s head coach. He’s steadily increased his win total (10 in 2013, 11 in 2014, 13 so far in 2015), and he’s got his team looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Freeney says it’s fun to play with Arians because he’s brutally honest and real with each and every man in the Cardinals locker room.

“Bruce (Arians): He’s a straight shooter. He tells you exactly how he feels, whether you like it or not,” Freeney said. “You have to appreciate that. Things he understands and how to take care of his guys as well. He’s been around a long time, so he sees when guys need rest during the week. He has a good intuition of when guys need to put the pads on, (and) when we need to hit a little bit more. He sees when we need to pick it up. That’s why he’s been so successful as a head coach.”

“When he was in Indy when (Colts head coach) Chuck Pagano went down, we were rolling there too. We rolled off about seven or eight straight, and then he came here. You see what he’s doing, so he’s a great coach. I think Coach of the year last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the conversation this year.”

Seeing Freeney do what he did to Rodgers on Sunday – in fact what the whole defense did to Rodgers – was just jaw dropping! Freeney says Arizona’s defense has a “similar type of feel” to the great defenses he played on with the Colts from 2005-07.

“I would say definitely this is the most talent that I’ve ever been around,” Freeney said. “Corners, safeties, (line)backers, d(efensive)-line front, it’s definitely up there. Some of the reasons I came back was to play with those types of guys. (I) just have that feeling of a dominating, dominating defense. I think we’re in the top five in a lot of categories. I’ve never been on a defense that has so many top five, against the run, against the pass, (and in) total defense, so it’s really a pleasure, and I love playing with these guys.”