ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Dwight Freeney had never been through this in his career: put on waivers, with no control over where he would end up. The All-Pro defensive end was waived by the Seattle Seahawks hours earlier, and he was still stunned last week when he found out he wouldn’t be with the Seahawks anymore.
“Oh, completely surprised. Completely surprised. Jaw on the ground,” Freeney said Monday. “I’m 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, and like I said, I’m not a general manager, I’m not a head coach, so I don’t know those types of things.
“Maybe it had something to do with salary cap or maybe it had to do with the fact that they couldn’t line up at linebacker, so they had to go to the deepest position that they had, and I was, I guess, the low guy on the totem pole because I was the newest guy, which was probably a little bit easier for them to do that.”
When he was released, Freeney said Seattle general manager John Schneider “was really apologetic and said how embarrassed he was to do this.” Freeney said the Seahawks told him they would potentially re-sign him later that week if he cleared waivers.
It led to 24 hours of confusing emotions when the Seahawks waived him. Then he was claimed by Detroit, which had a game on Thanksgiving. Freeney said he went from “completely pissed off to completely excited and completely lost and saying, ‘Wait a minute, you guys have a game Thursday?’”
Freeney was claimed by the Lions on Wednesday and said he offered to play in the team’s loss to the Vikings. But better judgment and longer-term decisions prevailed, and the Lions kept him down instead of asking a 37-year-old veteran to make an incredibly short body turnaround from Monday night to Thursday afternoon.
Coming to the Lions, though, seemed to be what Freeney thought might happen from the beginning. He said Monday that he had a few conversations earlier in the season with Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell -- his old boss in Indianapolis -- about possibly joining the team. They’d chat. Caldwell would tell Freeney to stay ready, and the time might come.
Then the follow-up call never came. That's how Freeney ended up in Seattle, where he had three sacks and a batted pass in four games, after thinking he might play for the Lions or the Falcons, who also expressed interest earlier in the season.
But this feels right for Freeney because of all the connections he has. Besides his relationship with Caldwell, who tried to recruit him to Wake Forest when Freeney chose Syracuse, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was the defensive backs coach at Syracuse for part of his time there.
“It’s funny how things come full circle. I started off with Jim in my career in Indy. He was there,” Freeney said. “And now I have a lot of the same guys with me in the end. 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 with Jim and those guys.”
Freeney joins a playoff contender, something he has been a part of most of his seasons in the league. Freeney said Monday that he told his agent following his release that he would probably retire before going just anywhere. Detroit, he said, “is a place I actually wanted to go to.” Freeney didn’t have a set number of teams he would have played for, but he said there were a handful of teams that made sense to him and would help make the transition easier.
The Lions are hoping it is the smoothest of transitions and a renaissance of the good, old days for Caldwell and Freeney, who has 341 tackles, 125.5 sacks, 47 forced fumbles and seven pass breakups in his career. Freeney is a three-time first-team All-Pro, a seven-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl XLI champion and part of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2000s after being picked with the No. 11 overall pick from Syracuse.
But on Monday, at least, he was the new guy in the locker room again, complete with a makeshift “Freeney 93” nameplate that appeared to be written on tape in marker.
“He’s still got juice,” Caldwell said. “You take a look. He’s been productive anytime that he’s been on the field, and we’ll expect him to be productive for us as well. 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.”