Dwight Freeney has played for three teams since his prolific 11-year run in Indianapolis came to an end after the 2012 season. But even as his career took him from San Diego to Arizona to Atlanta, Freeney always had an eye on Seattle.
"I've always wanted to play here, in a sense," Freeney said. "Once I left Indianapolis, I was like 'Man, it would be special to play in Seattle.' One of the reasons being is because of the mentality on defense. It kind of gets lost sometimes in the league in these days of high-powered offense, and I'm not saying by any means that our offense isn't good, but I think it's just a little something different on defense in this city and how the 12th man really rises up and gets behind their defense. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
The Seahawks didn't sign Freeney after the 2012 season—instead they upgraded their pass rush by signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on consecutive days, which worked out pretty well. But now, at 37, Freeney is finally getting his chance to play for the Seahawks having signed with Seattle on Wednesday. And despite having been away from football since playing in Atlanta's Super Bowl loss to New England, both he and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expect he will be able to contribute when the Seahawks host Houston this weekend.
"We are going to mix him in and see how he does," Carroll said. "He is ready to go, he wants to go. He has been working really hard and is in good shape. The workout showed that yesterday. He's got to make it through the week and all that, but we are expecting him to play, so you will see him some.
"This is an extraordinarily savvy guy. He is so smart and so well-schooled and he's got tremendous discipline about his part of the game, rushing the passer. It's going to help guys just being around him. He is very aggressive. He was very active last year, made a lot of things happen, film looked great and he's been kind of sitting out and waiting for an opportunity. He was really anxious to get back to playing, so it was a chance and it worked out. We are thrilled to have him."
Freeney, who has 122.5 career sacks, which ranks 18th all-time and is second among active players, had 3.0 sacks with the Falcons last year, as well as one in the Super Bowl, and two seasons ago he had 8.0 sacks in 11 games with Arizona after signing during the season. That experience of going from his couch to regular-season action, and having success doing it, makes Freeney confident he can quickly get up to speed with Seattle.
"That helps a lot," Freeney said. "I came in, middle of the season, and it was just like full-fledged, zero to 100. I went from having my feet on the couch, worried about why I'm slicing the (golf) ball, to 'all right, I've got to learn a whole playbook and try to figure out how I'm going to help this team win.' And the thing is, in Arizona it was a lot tougher, because what they do defensively was completely foreign to me. So once I accomplished that, I knew that if I could do it there, where their Wednesday playbook is the size of a dictionary, then I can do it here where it's similar to what I did in Atlanta, so all the terminology is pretty much the same."
And it's a good thing the Seahawks and Freeney agreed to a deal when they did, because had something not come together this week, he said he was ready to stay home for the rest for the season and focus on his golf game. Freeney had been in talks with Atlanta, where he played last season, but with things not materializing there, he was ready to let what is most likely a Hall of Fame career come to an end.
"I think it lined up actually perfectly; I was literally one week away (from retiring), I was like 'If I don't get a call now, I can't go into that same gym and workout doing the same workout again.' So thank God those guys called me and they said that they had interest, so it kind of pushed me another week to work out and get going. I'm here now and I'm excited and hopefully we can get a win this weekend."
The Seahawks added Freeney primarily because they felt like they needed another pass rusher now that Cliff Avril in on injured reserve with a neck injury, but an added bonus of signing a seven-time Pro Bowler is the experience and leadership he can add to a position group that, outside of Michael Bennett, is pretty young.
"I do know what I offer to a team; that's leadership on and off the field," he said. "I can get into those younger guys' head and mind and kind of get those guys thinking around the same ways that you're supposed to be thinking, and the right ways of how to play the game and the things that you do and what you don't do."
Third-year defensive end Frank Clark had a huge grin on his face when asked about having a chance to learn from a pass-rushing legend, saying, "It's great. You can feel his presence. It's like that legendary type of aura.
"Just having Dwight around, you obviously know he's coming with one thing, and that's the ability to rush the passer, but also the ability to teach, he's bringing that to the table at the max. Being able to teach me and the rest of the younger players a thing or two or 10 or 20 or 30."
Freeney is perhaps best known for the spin move he used to record so many of those 122.5 career sacks, a move Clark said he's been trying to improve over the past three years. Even linebacker Bobby Wagner, who only occasionally rushes the passer, is excited to learn from Freeney.
"It's pretty cool. I've been watching him for a very long time, he has been very, very productive. I'm excited to learn whatever I can from him… I tried a spin move last week and it didn't work, so I'm going to ask him for some pointers."
Take a look at some of the best images from Seahawks newly acquired Defensive End Dwight Freeney's career.