Dwight Freeney’s long, winding career brings him to Detroit Lions
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK — At age 37, Dwight Freeney can never be too sure what next year is going to bring — or even next week.
Freeney was caught off guard last week, when Seattle waived him about a month after he’d signed with the Seahawks.
“Completely surprised. Jaw on the ground,” Freeney said Monday. “I was like, what the heck had just happened? It would be one thing if I wasn’t producing and all that, but I was producing, and that was the decision that they had to make based on their situation.”
The Detroit Lions were happy to take advantage of Freeney’s sudden availability, so the veteran defensive end is with them now.
It’s an opportunity for Freeney to reunite with coach Jim Caldwell after their time together in Indianapolis, and Freeney hopes it’s another chance to contribute to a postseason push.
After 213 games and 125 1/2 sacks, there’s no telling how much longer Freeney will be able to play, but he sounds eager to make the most of his latest move.
“It’s funny how things come full circle. I started out with Jim in my career in Indy. He was there, and now I have a lot of the same guys with me in the end,” Freeney said.
“I don’t know if this is going to be the last thing for me, last year for me, but if it is, it’s just amazing to be here with extended family.”
Freeney played 11 seasons in Indianapolis from 2002-2012. Caldwell was an assistant there and then eventually the head coach. Freeney also has ties to Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who was a defensive backs coach at Syracuse, where Freeney played in college.
After leaving Indianapolis, Freeney played for San Diego, Arizona, Atlanta and Seattle before joining the Lions last week. He played in 15 games for the Falcons last season, then spent much of 2017 waiting for another opportunity.
Freeney signed with Seattle in late October, had three sacks in four games for the Seahawks, then was waived last Tuesday in a surprising move.
“The GM was really apologetic and said how embarrassed he was to do this,” he said.
Freeney indicated the Seahawks were hoping to bring him back quickly, but he was awarded to the Lions off waivers. Detroit lost pass rusher Kerry Hyder before the season even started, and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has been slowed by injury problems.
Freeney was inactive for Detroit’s loss to Minnesota on Thursday — he had played for the Seahawks three nights earlier — but Caldwell is hopeful he can contribute for the Lions (6-5) as they try to reach the postseason for the third time in four years.
“He’s still got juice. You take a look, he’s been productive any time that he’s been on the field, and we’ll expect him to be productive for us as well,” Caldwell said.
“How we’ll use him? We’ll make a real good determination of that as we go through the week, but he’ll be able to do something for us.”
Only twice in Freeney’s career has he played for a team that didn’t end up making the playoffs — in Indianapolis in 2011 and San Diego in 2014 — so Detroit was a good fit for that reason as well. The Lions have work to do to get in, but they’re in the postseason hunt.
Freeney says when he was younger, he had a hard time imagining playing much longer than a decade in the NFL. That’s obviously changed, and although the future holds no guarantees, he’s enjoying his longevity.