Dwight Freeney: ‘I Was Really Contemplating Retirement’

At 35, Dwight Freeney, a Super Bowl winner and seven-time Pro Bowler, may not be the player he once was. But that doesn’t mean he still can’t be dangerous.

Well, Freeney was plenty dangerous in Arizona’s 23-20 win over Minnesota on Thursday, recording a strip-sack on Teddy Bridgewater to win the game.

“It was a tough situation for them,” Freeney said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I understood what they were thinking. I would have thought they maybe would have done a three-step drop and got rid of the ball and just throw it deep to see what happens. But they decided to hold on to the ball a little bit longer. I haven’t gotten a chance to check to see why they held on to the ball. Maybe it was coverage, maybe it was a double-move move by the wide receiver. But I’m happy that they did, clearly. It is what it is. Sometimes that happens.”

Freeney, who was most dangerous, perhaps, during his 11 seasons with Indianapolis, signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2013, but was cut after last season. He stayed in shape during the offseason, not knowing if he would play another NFL down.

“It was a big difference this offseason than in years past,” Freeney said. “There would be pretty much a date where I knew I had to report to camp. I could ramp that training up right until that moment and slide right into camp, but it was different this year. It was, I don’t even know if I’m going to play this year. Only if a few teams call me – only if these teams call me – I’ll play. I was really contemplating retirement. So the training kind of peaked kind of at training-camp time for everybody, but then I toned it back because you don’t want want to do too much because you never know when you’re going to get that phone call. So it was kind of weird to do it that way, but it worked out. I stayed in shape. I stayed ready. It’s funny. I was one week way from retiring and I got the phone call.”

That phone call came from Bruce Arians in October. Freeney signed a one-year deal and has two forced fumbles in eight games.

Freeney said it took him about a week to go from in shape to in playing shape.

“I’ve been around for 14 years and I know what I have to do,” Freeney said. “I know what my body has to endure. From a mental perspective, I understand what I need to (do to) get there so I’m ready to go. So yeah, it took me about a week to get some of that timing back. But I think the reason why it took me a week is it’s been 14 years, just because I’ve been playing for so long.”

Freeney is one of several 30-somethings – along with Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson, among others – who have played pivotal roles for the Cardinals (11-2) this season. How has a team with so many veterans been so good, especially when a lot of those veterans were written off by other NFL teams?

“I think we’ve played this long for a reason,” Freeney said. “Yeah, they like to make this league all about the young guys. Listen, the average career is three years. So if you get a guy who’s been playing for (nine or ten years or longer), we’ve been doing something right. Hats off to the management, the general manger here, (Steve Keim). He’s done a great job. He should be GM of the Year. Seriously. The pieces of young and old and going out on a limb and getting some of these guys and still having faith in us knowing that we’re still capable of doing what we do – hats off to him. They really know what they’re doing.”

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