“Everybody thinks he’s lost a step being as old as he is,” Dunlap said. “But I think he’s actually got a step faster because he’s a lot smarter than he used to be. He’s an intelligent football player. He can look at you and your set off the ball and work his move, and beat you just from looking at you.”
In his first action since suffering a torn quad in Week 4 last season against Dallas, Freeney said he felt better than expected. And the 34-year-old has showed off his speed and athleticism during the opening week of training camp.
“I’m getting there,” Freeney said. “I’m moving around better than I anticipated. This is the first time that I had to go against guys -- having to make a move on a guy. I’ve planned all offseason for that. But to actually go out there and feel pretty much good, that’s a good thing.”
Safety Eric Weddle said Freeney spent the five weeks after the team’s offseason program in San Diego working out at the team’s facility in anticipation of the opening of training camp.
The Chargers finished tied for 23rd in the NFL in sacks last season with 35. Even worse, they had just 10 sacks on third down, second-worst in the league.
Weddle believes a healthy Freeney can help improve those statistics.
“I was in here every day, and he was right here with me,” Weddle said. “So I have seen the work he’s put in, and it’s going to be huge for us if we can get a consistent, four-man rush that teams have to game-plan for and fear. It will make all of our lives easier.”
The key for Freeney will be staying healthy all season. The Chargers gave Freeney a rest day on Sunday to help keep him fresh during training camp. And with a deep pool of talent at outside linebacker, the hope is San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano can limit Freeney’s reps so that he’s healthy when the games matter most, in December and January.
At 34 years old, Freeney said he’s out to prove that he’s still one of the best pass-rushers in the game.
“For me, every time I step on the field, I kind of find a way to somehow put something in my head to where I have to prove something,” he said. “And I think you always do to a certain extent. Prove to all of the doubters that you can still do it. Prove to that young guy who was born in 1992 that you can run faster than him still.
“You’ve got to find something, and for me that’s always helped keep me going over the years -- finding something to help keep me motivated.”