<
>

Veteran Dwight Freeney ready to help Falcons turn corner

play
Falcons looking for Freeney to create pass rush (0:54)

Ed Werder explains why the Falcons decided to sign 36-year-old Dwight Freeney to an incentive-laden contract and what he could bring to the team. (0:54)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dwight Freeney, the 36-year-old pass-rusher who just signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, arrived in Atlanta on Thursday and brought a sense of humor with him.

"I love the game and I love to play," Freeney said. "I'm one of those guys you're going to have to pull me off the field. ... So if it's 18 snaps, then it's 18 snaps. If it's 30 snaps, it's 30 snaps. If it's 45, 50, they're going to have to get me an IV, but I'll still go out there and then still play."

The Falcons need Freeney to help inject life into a listless pass rush, one that resulted in a league-low 19 sacks last season. Freeney has 119.5 sacks, including eight in 11 games with the Arizona Cardinals last season. He'll be a nickel rusher for the Falcons, not a guy asked to drop into coverage.

"I'm excited," Freeney said. "This (Falcons) team that, for the last few years now, I've always looked at this team as having a lot of potential to do some great things. They have a lot of talent, definitely offensively. And then defensively, we're getting it together now. I know I wanted to come here because I see possibilities are endless, especially having a coach like (Dan) Quinn. He has the right attitude, a standup guy. I'm just here just to help turn that corner; one more piece to help this team win."

Freeney is eager to help some of the young players such as Vic Beasley Jr. develop, as well as show the world he still has "a lot left" to be a difference-maker on defense. He aims to bring leadership to a defense which could have as many as three rookie starters -- strong safety Keanu Neal and linebackers De'Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones.

"You know, it's just being able to help some young guys maybe avoid some of the issues or help them grow as a player," he said.

This will be Freeney's 15th NFL season. The seven-time Pro Bowl and former first-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts even has a little gray in his beard now.

"I've got to color that out," Freeney said with a laugh "It goes by so fast. You never think about it too often, but when you sit back and think, you know 15 years playing in this league, that's a long time. I've been very blessed. I've been a part of some great organizations.

"I still love the game. I talked to the Hall of Famer Howie Long and he said, 'Look, play as long as you can if you still love it, because when it's over, it's over, and it's done,'" Freeney said. "I said, 'Why not? I'll give it another try.'"

It was somewhat of a surprise to see Freeney sign now, considering he joined the Cardinals in Week 6 of last season. Now, he'll have to go through the grind of training camp.

"I tried to hold out as long as I could," Freeney said. "I'm like, 'Man, camp, I'm not looking forward to that. It's hot and the heat. Who wants to go to another camp?' But you know what? It's a blessing honestly, just to be playing, doing something like this, playing a kid's game. And it's still playing the game that I love 15 years. ... Overall, if I have to come a little bit early, I'm sure they'll take care of me."