Lions add DE Dwight Freeney to boost pass rush

Jim Caldwell and Dwight Freeney have a long history together. Now, the Detroit Lions coach is turning to the veteran defensive end to help his sagging pass rush.

The Lions claimed Freeney off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

Freeney, 37, had three sacks in four games with the Seahawks this year, but was waived after the team's Monday night loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Lions (6-4) rank 20th in the league with 21 sacks and have played without three of their starting defensive linemen — Ziggy Ansah, Kerry Hyder and Haloti Ngata — for all or part of the season.

Hyder and Ngata are on season-ending injured reserve, while Ansah could return after a two-game absence from a back injury for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings (8-2).

Freeney played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, where Caldwell was an assistant coach or the head coach for 10 of those seasons.

At the Super Bowl last year, Freeney called Caldwell "a pleasure to play for" and said Caldwell tried to recruit him out of high school to Wake Forest. 

"Jim actually recruited me in high school, sat on my couch, told me I could play both ways," Freeney said. "And I always throw that back in his face every single time I see him. It's like, 'Hey, I'm ready to play both ways, Coach, whenever you're ready.' But he's a great guy. He has a great way of teaching, a great way of coming through to the guys and just exuding confidence in the guys."

A situational pass rusher with the Seahawks this year and last season with the Atlanta Falcons, Freeney is expected to play a similar role for the Lions.

Ansah has four sacks on the season, and none since Oct. 8. Anthony Zettel and Cornelius Washington are the team's second and third defensive ends.

Linebacker Paul Worrilow, who played with Freeney in Atlanta last year, called the defensive end "one of the best pass rushers ever (and) an awesome teammate."

"The cool thing about Dwight was seeing his day in and day out," Worrilow told the Free Press on Wednesday. "That dude was always in the weight room stretching, bringing his own food. Every edge that he could find, I mean he went and did it. And you just watch him in practice, he went hard. And the cool thing, (he) brought a lot of people along with it, too, like teaching wise. He was always available for everybody."

It's unclear if Freeney will play Thursday with the Vikings as he still has to travel to town and he played 17 defensive snaps on Monday.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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