They have combined for 11 Pro Bowls in 21 NFL seasons yet during this past offseason Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis had a decision to make.
Did they want to stay at the positions they had played their entire NFL careers and move to another team? Or did they want to make the transition back to linebacker and continue to play with the organization that drafted them?
“One was a free agent that we had to get re-signed and could have went to another 4-3 team. Dwight’s (Freeney) done enough in this deal. He’s got one year left on his contract,” Pagano said.
“It’s all about the shoe and it’s all about your name. It takes a lifetime to build that up and you can make one bad decision, one bad choice and everything that you’ve done to kind of etch your legacy, those guys have done too much. They’ve got way too much pride and they’ve got way too much integrity to do that so it didn’t shock me.”
That pride to stay with the Colts has helped the defense put together the pieces in place to make a successful 3-4 unit.
Now, as outside linebackers both Freeney and Mathis admitted it was first a little strange standing up at the line of scrimmage.
“Your hand was set and you were ready to go and that you’ve been doing it all of your career. It’s like tying your shoes or riding a bike, you don’t have to think about it,” Freeney said.
Freeney said after the initial two steps following the snap of the ball he feels like he is doing the same thing he did with his hand in the ground.
For the better part of the past decade teams had to occupy No. 93 before every snap but now even he doesn’t know where he will be lining up.
“Now, you don’t know where I’m going to be at. The offensive tackle it’s not easy for him. It creates some hesitation for the offensive tackle too,” Freeney said. “There could be a guy blitzing in that ‘B’ gap so he might not kick out as fast. There’s certain things he has to worry about, not just if I’m getting off the ball the same way.”
Mathis had a productive afternoon practice on Monday as he deflected an attempted pass, which brought some cheers from his defensive teammates.
Both players said the growth between when they first started at linebacker in May and now at training camp has been immense.
“It’s becoming more and more comfortable each day. I’m able to see a lot more than I did back in OTAs, and I’m able to react a lot quicker to it,” Mathis said.
The duo has combined for 186.0 career sacks and 82 forced fumbles during their 21 seasons with the Colts and even Pagano knows where they are at their best.
“We all know what that is and it’s getting after the quarterback. But they fully understand that in order to do that we’ve got to get people into third and longs so we’ve got to play great run defense on first and second in run situations,” Pagano said.
“They’ve adapted extremely well. They both bought in hook, line and sinker and hats off to those guys. That’s just the kind of men that they are.”
Freeney and Mathis might be a little restless Monday evening as they head to bed thinking about their first day in full pads on Tuesday.
Numerous times in Monday’s practice, Colts defenders had to hold up before taking a ball carrier to the ground but come Tuesday, the defense will be ready to go full speed.
“I can’t pass up a hit. He’s got the ball he’s got to get hit,” Mathis said.
Tags: chuck pagano, Dwight Freeney, robert mathis
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