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Dwight Freeney trying to learn Cardinals' scheme in three days

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians plans on using Dwight Freeney, signed Monday, for at least 15 to 20 snaps per game. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. -- At the end of training camp, Dwight Freeney gave his career two weeks.

By the end of Week 2, if he wasn't signed, Freeney planned on retiring.

Those two weeks came and went, and Freeney still didn't have a job, but his agent, Tom Condon, told him to hold tight. A team will want him. Eventually. So, Freeney waited, telling himself the same thing every two weeks.

The wait paid off Monday, when he signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

"This is a great situation," Freeney said after his first practice Wednesday. "These guys are balling right now. Things are rolling right now."

He'll be partly responsible to keep that going.

Signed to help the Cardinals' pass rush, he'll be Arizona's nickel linebacker filling the old role of rookie Markus Golden, who'll now be a starting outside linebacker, coach Bruce Arians said.

Arians plans on using Freeney for at least 15 to 20 snaps per game, unless the offense dictates that the Cardinals play more nickel defense.

On Wednesday, however, it didn't matter the situation or position Freeney will play Sunday at Pittsburgh. He was just concerned with learning Arizona's scheme -- from its tendencies to its terminology.

"It's not just see ball, get ball," he said. "You have to make sure you're in the right spot and then get the ball."

While teaching Freeney the scheme on short notice is the priority, Arians knows the 14-year-veteran will just need to learn the X's and O's.

"He rushes the passer," Arians said. "I don't think you have to teach him that."

Freeney said, physically, his body was ready to return to football after sitting out more than nine months. He's stayed in shape. His toughest adjustment will be mentally.

"I hadn't put on a helmet since December," Freeney said. "It's like riding a bike. It's just good to get it back on. You can be blindfolded in a sense. Obviously, there's a lot new stuff that I have to learn. You have guys that have been doing this for years or know the system since March.

"I got to cram everything in three days. That's the only part that's not great."

After spending the majority of his career in a 4-3 scheme, Freeney learned how to play in a 3-4 the last couple years in San Diego, which prepared him to jump feet first into Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher's defense.

The quicker Freeney learns the scheme, the more comfortable he'll be, which will lead to him playing faster. It's not unlike a rookie in this situation.

Freeney can just do it faster.

"I think that's what it comes down to in football," Freeney said. "I think when you're comfortable you can play faster and you can make a lot of plays because you already know what you'll be doing prior to and what they'll be doing. When you have a lot in your head it's going to be tougher.

"They've been doing a great job of helping me right now and speeding me up."

The sooner that happens, the sooner Freeney can see the football, get the football.