A FREE(NEY) MAN

Few players have been with the Colts as long as defensive end Dwight Freeney. And the four-time Pro Bowl selection, and the club's all-time sack leader, could not be happier to be back in camp.

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Colts Defensive End Happy To Be Back In Camp

TERRE HAUTE – Healthy, happy, and hungry, Dwight Freeney is in the perfect mindset for the first week of training camp.

The defensive end's grin was as wide as his chinstrap when talking about being back at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for his eighth training camp with the Colts.

"To be honest, just to be organized again and have that structure – I'm pretty happy about it," Freeney said. After missing seven games in 2007 with a foot injury, the four-time Pro Bowl selection is not taking his clean bill of health for granted.

"When you come into camp healthy you have that momentum," Freeney said. "All those off-season workouts and training (sessions) can be used to build up something special. When you have an injury in the preseason, the training is a little bit less and you have to manage the injury, so it kind of takes away from what you really want to do in camp."

Freeney will look to build upon a standout season in 2008, in which he recorded the fifth double-digit sack season (10.5) of his career, despite facing numerous double-teams. His 70.5 career sacks make him the all-time leader in club history and are tied for the second-most any NFL player has registered since 2002.

With Colts defensive end Robert Mathis – a Pro Bowl selection in 2008 – lining up on the other side of the line, Freeney is set up to have another productive season, but he is keeping an even keel and reminding himself that it is still only August.

"I pretty much take it the same way I take every season. I take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time," Freeney said. "You never know what is going to happen in the season. There are ups and downs, and you know everything is not going to go well for you all the time."

While Freeney, Mathis and eighth-year veteran Raheem Brock rotate at defensive end, the Colts expect to have some new players plugging up the middle at defensive tackle. The team used two of its first five picks on tackles, both of which weigh more than 300 pounds. In addition to Fili Moala (second-round selection) and Terrance Taylor (fourth-round selection), the team has Antonio Johnson (310 pounds), who started four games last season, and Ed Johnson (296 pounds), who started 16 games for the Colts in 2007.

"We felt as though we needed to get a little more bulk at that position without sacrificing athletic ability," Colts President Bill Polian said on Sunday.

Polian said he does not want defensive tackles that are "335 without athleticism" and prefers defensive tackles who can run, change direction and still be big enough to "not be blasted off the line of scrimmage."

"The fellas we have now are plenty big enough and plenty athletic enough, and that is one of the things we wanted to try and accomplish," he said.

The beefier line could improve the team's run defense and keep Freeney and Mathis from being double-teamed on a regular basis, something that Freeney relishes.

"You always try to improve as a defense," Freeney said.

Colts Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer, who is in his first year with the team, will orchestrate the team's defense this season. And despite just getting to know him, Freeney already is a fan.

"I like to sit down there with him because he has so much knowledge and so much experience, so you can kind of pick his brain," Freeney said.

As many players have, Freeney called Coyer "old school," but that phrase means something to Freeney it might not to others.

"When I say 'old school,' I say 'old school' from the standpoint of he's been around. That doesn't necessarily mean that he coaches 'old school,'" Freeney said. "Times have changed and things change in the game, and he's been great so far at changing things. He likes to get the guys that want to make plays in a position to make them."

Which is exactly what Freeney is. And is one of the reasons why he is so happy to be back at camp.

"To be out here with the guys and to get back at it, I love it."

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