FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney has had his share of encounters with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady over the years, specifically during Freeney's 11 seasons with the AFC's Indianapolis Colts.
Now the seven-time Pro Bowler will see Brady once again Feb. 5 when the Falcons and Patriots clash in Super Bowl LI. Does Freeney hold any grudges toward Brady from their previous battles? Not at all.
"You try to hate a guy because you play against him," Freeney explained. "You're playing the Patriots and, of course, you want to hate him. But when you meet him you're like, 'Hey, this guy's a great guy.' He's a cool dude, man."
Freeney, with 122.5 career sacks, was asked how many times he's sacked Brady in the past.
"I don't know," Freeney said. "I sacked him a few times. I have no idea."
According to ESPN Statistics & Information, Freeney has four sacks in 13 career games against Brady, including the postseason. He recorded a sack in three of his first four games against Brady and has just one sack against him in nine games since 2005.
"I've probably seen Tom Brady more than probably anybody in the league, which is funny we're going against him," Freeney said. "It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be something that we're all going to have to come together collectively and find a way to make his life uncomfortable."
Freeney can appreciate the Patriots' success under coach Bill Belichick and with Brady at quarterback. Brady has a chance to become the first quarterback ever to win five Super Bowls, and both Brady and Belichick are set to make their seventh Super Bowl appearances.
"Tremendous, tremendous amount of respect," Freeney said. "What they have done, no team has done. No team has been to the Super Bowl seven times in whatever period of time that they have done. Tom has had an amazing career. Bill has had an amazing coaching career. They have done amazing things. You can't take any of that away from them.
"Regardless if you don't like losing to them ... who likes losing to them? The thing is, you have to pay respect to those guys. And they're good people. I know both of those guys. They're good people."
Freeney, seeking his second Super Bowl ring, talked about the challenges presented by the savvy Brady. During the regular season, Brady had 28 touchdowns and two interceptions after being suspended the first four games as a result of Deflategate. This postseason, Brady has five touchdowns and two interceptions.
"He's consistent," Freeney said of Brady. "He's consistent and knows how to manage his team. He doesn't make many mistakes. I think that's the biggest thing with the Patriots is they don't hurt themselves. They're a very disciplined football team. You don't see them turning the ball over too much. You don't see them making a lot of false starts and holding penalties. You don't see much of that because they're well-coached."