Monday, June 18, 2018
Sports

Freeney enjoys unexpected chance at glory

TEMPE, Ariz. — Dwight Freeney said he was a week away from retiring from the NFL when Arizona coach Bruce Arians called to offer him a job.

Freeney said he was on an airplane that was about to take off.

"The door was closing," he said. "The flight attendants were telling everyone to put away their cellphones. I am looking at my phone seeing that it is B.A. I am telling her to hold on. She is telling me to get off the phone.

"It was great when he called me. I said, 'Yeah, I am ready to get off the couch, let's go man,' and it has been a ride ever since."

Since joining Arizona in mid-October, Freeney has shown he still can get to the quarterback.

The 35-year-old outside linebacker, in his 14th season, has nine sacks in his 12 games with the team, including one last week in Arizona's 26-20 overtime playoff win over Green Bay.

It was Freeney's 10th postseason sack; only seven players have had more. Without him, the Cardinals' pass rush off the edge isn't much, so he's a critical component to the team's hopes of beating Carolina in Sunday's NFC Championship Game — Freeney's 18th postseason game.

"Dwight's a pro's pro," Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "The first day he's here, he's in there watching tape. …He's there early every morning. He's here late every day."

Freeney matched his career best of three sacks in Arizona's 38-8 rout of Green Bay in the next-to-last game of the regular season. On one sack he stripped the ball from Aaron Rodgers and cornerback Jerraud Powers returned it for a touchdown. Freeney was selected NFC defensive player of the week.

He earned five such honors in the AFC in 11 seasons with the Colts, who drafted him 11th overall out of Syracuse in 2002.

He and Robert Mathis combined to bring a ferocious pass rush, helping Indianapolis win the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. Freeney and the Colts parted ways after the 2012 season, and he spent two years with San Diego.

This season, he worked on his golf game and contemplated calling it quits.

Freeney said he heard from "a bunch of teams" but…

"The thing is I didn't want to go to a place where I was going to lose," he said. "I have played long enough to know that I want to be in a place that has the right attitude and has the right pieces to win a championship."

He said Arizona's offense reminds him of the high-powered ones on the Colts' best teams.

"And you have a defense that is stacked, loaded with all types of talent," he said. "So it was kind of a no-brainer."

Freeney signed for the veteran's minimum of $870,000 with incentives. He got an additional $200,000 when he reached four sacks and another $100,000 for each sack thereafter up to $1 million. So he is at $700,000 and counting.

"As a player, you always have to think the best of yourself," Freeney said. "I don't care, I could be 90 years old and think that I can come out here and have a three-sack game. ... I always knew I could still play."

Now comes the formidable challenge of trying to get to and take down the powerful Cam Newton.

"It is definitely going to take a conscious effort from all of the guys going after him," Freeney said, "whether it be a four-man rush or five or six, whatever it is, because he is so elusive."

Comments
As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SECís alcohol stance slowly shifting?

As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SECís alcohol stance slowly shifting?

USF's expanded partnership with Yuengling — including naming rights to the Sun Dome — is only the latest part in an evolving relationship between college sports and alcohol, as my colleague, Joey Knight, wrote on the front page ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning re-signs goaltender Eddie Pasquale to two-way deal

Lightning re-signs goaltender Eddie Pasquale to two-way deal

The Lightning re-signed goaltender Eddie Pasquale to a one-year, two-way contract general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.Pasquale, 27, split this past season between the Syracuse Crunch and Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. He...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays drop three of four in New York

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays drop three of four in New York

The Rays lose three of four games in New York as Rick Stroud says they fail to figure out the Yankees' pitching. With Christian Arroyo injured, they activate Adeiny Hechavarria — one of the stars of Sunday's win — from the disabled list a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A sports story that we all can love

A sports story that we all can love

When we think of sports — hard-nosed, competitive sports — what words immediately come to mind? Tenacity. Grit. Guts. Perseverance. Courage. Intensity. Determination. You get the idea. Sports are usually cutthroat, give no quarter, sho...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

NEW YORK — The Adeiny Hechavarria situation is going to be interesting for the Rays. The veteran seemed destined to be traded or even released as he completed his recovery from a hamstring strain rather than play again for the Rays after last ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Yankees game

The Rays remain committed to using an "opener" three times in five game stretches, but that seems to tax the bullpen too much. Wilmer Font showed Sunday that he should be able to handle starting, at least until Chris Archer returns.It was only one wi...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 18

TODAYBaseballYankees at Nationals7 p.m.MLBRays at Astros8 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Giants10 p.m.FSFDiamondbacks at Angels10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesOregon State vs. Washington2 p.m.ESPNNorth Carolina vs. Mississippi State7 p.m.ESPN...
Published: 06/17/18
Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

Rays journal: Adeiny Hechavarria returns and plays short, but now what?

NEW YORK ó The Adeiny Hechavarria situation is going to be interesting for the Rays.The veteran seemed destined to be traded or even released as he completed his recovery from a hamstring strain rather than play again for the Rays after last weekís p...
Published: 06/17/18

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Yankees game

The Rays remain committed to using an "opener" three times in five game stretches, but that seems to tax the bullpen too much. Wilmer Font showed Sunday that he should be able to handle starting, at least until Chris Archer returns.e_SClBIt was only ...
Published: 06/17/18
Rays leave New York with a smile after beating Yankees 3-1

Rays leave New York with a smile after beating Yankees 3-1

NEW YORK ó You had seen this game before.So had the radio guys, the coaches, the manager, the players and, certainly, the bosses.The Rays grab an early lead over the Yankees. They look like they are headed to a rare win in the Bronx. And then when th...
Published: 06/17/18