ANDERSON –Dwight Freeney was administered a pop quiz the moment he emerged from a golf cart on Monday morning at Anderson University.
An inquiring media member got right to the point, "Do you remember the last time you played with your hand down?"
"Zero. (He paused) That's not true," said Freeney. "I remember we played Auburn (in college) and it was four plays, five plays. It's always been down (with the Colts). I've been doing the same thing for 10 years."
Freeney has been a defensive force for Indianapolis ever since the end some observers labeled as "too short" was selected with the 11th pick in the 2002 draft.
Freeney, 6-1, 268, now is listed as an outside linebacker on the roster, and he is working his way in a new defensive system that will provide promise for Indianapolis. The philosophy shift will have Freeney as a moving component on the defense. It is a challenge he is embracing.
"It depends really on the position, formation, our call," said Freeney about where he might line up this year. "I get to play lineman a little bit more. It's actually kind of fun, and it actually can kind of help me.
"When you have your hand on the ground, you can't move. Sometimes in the game for the last 10 years, I've wanted to widen out a little bit. That's a lot when you have your hand on the ground. Now you can move, you can play with your alignment and it gives the offensive tackle some problems."
That is not something opposing tackles really want to hear about from the seven-time Pro Bowler who has 102.5 career sacks. Freeney has caused havoc historically, last year becoming one of 27 NFL players to crack the century total in sacks.
His seven double-digit sack seasons mark a franchise standard, and he has 25 multiple-sack outings, including five with three or more takedowns.
Still, it is about the present, and Freeney is all in. He likes the latitude the new scheme affords.
"Now, you don't know where I'm going to be at. The offensive tackle, it's not easy for him either," said Freeney. "I might be up, I might be in the middle, I might drop back. It creates some hesitation for the offensive tackle. It's not always just about me. He has more things to worry about. There could be a guy blitzing in that 'B' gap. There are certain things he needs to worry about, not just am I getting off the ball the same way.
"(Playing on the line) your hand was set and you were ready to go, and you've been doing it that way all your career, so your get-off (on the snap) was like tying your shoes or riding your bike. You don't have to think about it. There's a little bit of thinking now but after the first two steps, it's basically the same thing."
Head Coach Chuck Pagano stated from the start that the team would not be trying to fit square pegs into round holes in changing the defense. So, an old pro is learning new tricks, and there were times he may have tried to hold onto the past.
"You know, there's a little bit of both," said Freeney of old and new. "They're going to allow me to do a lot of what I've done. You'll see me with my hand down. It's going to happen. They have allowed me so far to be able to do so. There's going to be situations where I can't have my hand down.
"Most times, you're probably going to see me with my hand down, so there's not really going to be a big difference. … If I'm only standing up just say 25 percent of the time and 75 percent of the time I'm down, I'm basically doing the same thing I've been doing, with more people blitzing."
Adapting meant working on a little bit of a new skill set, and that is something Freeney started doing earlier this year.
"Yes, I'm a professional, and I like to make sure I'm comfortable and doing things the right way all the time," said Freeney. "I worked from a stand up position a little bit during the off-season. I've done it before in my career. I tried doing it in practice for the last 10 years. We were playing around and I would stand up and do different things. We actually had packages then. I've done it before. Now, it's just I guess being labeled an outside linebacker – I don't know about that (laughs) – whatever it is, it's different for everybody else.
"We'll be good. We'll be fine. We'll be excited. We're getting things together now."