How 37-year-old Seahawk Dwight Freeney still dominates
RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks have two members of the 2002 NFL Draft class. The still-active member is defensive end Dwight Freeney, a midseason free agent acquisition now in his 16th NFL season.
The other is Kris Richard, Seattle’s defensive coordinator, selected by the Seahawks with the 85th overall pick, 74 spots behind Freeney, taken 11th overall by the Indianapolis Colts.
Richard, 38, had a short-lived career before joining the coaching ranks alongside Pete Carroll. But, hey, if a member of his draft class is still a capable player at age 37, then perhaps there’s still hope for the former defensive back.
“I’m really interested in his diet,” Richard joked days after Freeney signed with Seattle in late October. “I have to make sure I get on that diet, then maybe there’s a chance for me, too.”
Freeney has always been conscious of his eating habits. (In fact, they’ve been well-documented over the years.) Freeney said those habits haven’t changed as he adds another stop along his Hall of Fame career.
The physical limitations are what required adjustments.
“When you’re younger you jump out the bed, go run, run a lap,” Freeney said. “Oh, practice, five minutes to stretch? Who needs it? Just run. Now, it takes me 45 minutes to do anything. I make sure I take my time and stretch, stretch, stretch."
Freeney said it reached the point he had to keep a running tally of his ailments, of which there are plenty once you’ve played more than 200 professional football games.
“OK, it’s my shoulder, my glute, my hand, my knee, my this, my that. I gotta make sure I do this stretch, that stretch,” he said. “Then you look at the clock and practice is in about five minutes and I still got 10 more stretches I gotta do. That’s kind of my life now. But it’s all good. They work with me."
Freeney’s dedication to physical treatment has proven beneficial. In just two games, he’s still the quarterback-thumping force on the defensive line that sealed his HOF status while he was in Indianapolis. His three sacks are already third on the team behind Michael Bennett (6.5) and Frank Clark (4.5), who have each played six additional games this year.
"He's a supreme competitor; there isn't much I can say about him," Richard said. "I'm kind of at a loss for words about him; every time that somebody brings him up, I'm like 'Man, goodness gracious, how could it possibly be that a guy that has that sort of professionalism,' he's articulate, he can articulate the rush plans, and really, I love working with the guy."
So far the 6-foot-1, 268-pound edge rusher has played 43 snaps (18 vs. Houston, 25 vs. Washington), which is about the workload he’s comfortable with at this stage of his career. Could he play more? Possibly, but he'll leave that up to coaches, who continue to marvel at his work.
"Yeah, how about it," Carroll said. "He has been involved in three sacks already and he had two or three other rushes where he was as clean as you could get if the ball didn't come out right now, he would have had sacks then too. He just continues to show why he is Dwight Freeney and he has had all these numbers in the past."
A vital component to Freeney’s health: his portable Hyperbaric chamber. Freeney says he’s used it after every practice since the beginning of his career after being hipped to the treatment – a therapeutic healing method that increases the amount of oxygen dissolved into the body – by Dr. Leon Mellman, a Florida-based chiropractor, 15 years ago.
(Fun fact: Leon’s mother, Sari, is who developed Freeney’s quirky diet: the Sari Mellman's Dietary Progression; perhaps that’s where Richard can locate the secret to reviving his playing career.)
Freeney keeps a Hyperbaric chamber at his home – and wherever else he goes. “Listen, that thing is like the first thing that (travels), then I come,” he said.
“It’s great, I lay in there, I got my phone, I got my film I’m watching. An hour in that is equivalent to eight hours of sleep.”
Like most, Freeney’s body takes typically 4-5 days after a game to fully recover, which makes Thursday night football games “the worst,” as he worded it. But the increased emphasis on preparation has led to on-field results, which he’s happy to provide as he supplements the loss of veteran DE Cliff Avril.
“That’s why I keep hanging on,” said Freeney, who was days away from retiring before Seattle called for his services, “because I’m having so much fun when I’m out there doing it.”
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