TEMPE, Ariz. — Dwight Freeney made his Arizona Cardinals and 2015 season debut Sunday in Pittsburgh. He did not show up in the stat sheet, but was on the field for 20 plays and did manage to apply some pressure on the quarterback.
His last game action having come on Dec. 28, 2014, the 35-year-old who was signed last week said he didn’t feel too bad out on the field.
“I was doing May, July, training camp, everything all in one in about four days, so my body was confused,” he said Monday. “But all that being said, I didn’t do too bad.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a ways to go in a lot of areas. As he said, the challenge now that he’s a Cardinal involves both the mental side of the game as well as getting back into football shape. He noted he has to “cram” Arizona’s extensive playbook, but at the same time he must get his body used to dishing out and receiving hits.
Now in his 14th NFL season, the seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro admitted even he had no idea how much of the team’s playbook he was working with Sunday.
“It’s funny because I don’t know how big the playbook actually is,” he joked.
There’s little doubt Freeney will need some time to adjust to his new team and role. The quicker he can pick things up the better, as the Cardinals could use some pass rushing help. Though he is no longer the player who terrorized offenses to the tune of 107.5 sacks from 2002 to 2012, the former 2002 first-round pick out of Syracuse was brought in because the team thinks he can still get after opposing quarterbacks, be it for sacks or QB hurries.
What happened Sunday, as the Cardinals fell to the Steelers 25-13, was hopefully just the tip of the iceberg for the veteran.
“He got one hit,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He played pretty hard and I think he only had one mental error, so that part of it should get better.”
And as Freeney, who said he prefers to play with his hand in the dirt along the line than standing up as a linebacker, gets better, in theory, so to will Arizona’s defense. The former Indianapolis Colt and San Diego Charger raved about the talent around him. Asked what he likes about his defensive teammates, he responded by asking what’s not to like.
“These guys over here are athletic, big guys, smart guys,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing is the fact that they’re not just big athletes. You’ve got guys who have to learn this type of playbook and know where to be.
“They’ve had success here for every time I’ve watched them out here. Big Calais (Campbell) is great, obviously having corners and the coverage that we have. I think the sky is really the limit for this type of defense.”
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