LAKE FOREST – He sure did smile a lot on Wednesday in the face of some inquisitive questioning.
Jerrell Freeman had to know it was coming since his Bears visit the Colts-his former team-this weekend in Indianapolis. It’s a common occurrence in the NFL that a free agent returns to a place they used to call home.
“I go into every game with the same amount of passion,” said the linebacker with first a serious expression then with a little smile on his face when asked he would have more energy for Sunday’s contest. “If I didn’t do that I would be doing a discredit to myself. I’m going into this game with the same amount of tenacity as any other game.”
Even when the inevitable question came up – are you upset with the way it ended after four years in Indianapolis – Freeman couldn’t help but keep the spirit light.
“Ha, Ha, Ha,” said the Bears linebacker with a chuckle. “They way it ended?”
Again Freeman had a little bit of a laugh with a grin.
That reaction is understandable considering that Freeman – who had 478 tackles and 12 sacks in four years in with the Colts – wasn’t even counter offer from the team when the Bears gave him a 3-year $12 million dollar contract.
“It’s a business. Can’t take things personal. It was their decision that the best thing for that organization was to let me walk so it is what it is. I can’t take it personal,” said Freeman, who eventually put his name on the dotted line in Lake Forest.. “They doing what they felt is right for their organization. It’s just how it goes.”
No hard feelings? Take Freeman at his word or not as his Bears get ready to face the Colts this Sunday at noon at Lucas Oil Stadium. While his affection for the front office in Indianapolis might not be great, that is certainly not the case for his old teammates.
“I spent four years over there. A lot of friendships,” said Freeman. “I consider a lot of those guys over there as brothers.”
One of those he discusses specifically is quarterback Andrew Luck, who joined the Colts with Freeman back in 2012. The quarterback obviously came in with more notoriety having just been the No. 1 pick of that spring’s draft. Meanwhile Freeman was joining the Bears as a free agent following four years in the Canadian Football League.
With Luck running the Colts’ offense and Freeman the man in the middle on defense, the team went to the playoff their first three seasons. In 2014 they went to the AFC Championship game but Luck’s injury among other issues sunk the team’s record to 8-8 the next year.
Luck wasn’t on the field when Freeman played his last game with the Colts on January 3rd but that doesn’t mean he didn’t leave an impression.
“He’s one of those once in a generation-type players,” said Freeman of Luck. “In talking to him you realize he’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever be around. His athletic ability, his arm, everything. I think highly of him, Frank (Gore), everyone else over there.”
When asked about a unique memory of the quarterback – who has thrown for 15,985 yards and 109 touchdowns – Freeman again comes back to the intelligence of Luck.
“It wasn’t even like one thing. You just go and try to have a conversation with him and some of the stuff is just over your head,” said Freeman of Luck. “It’s like ‘Man, I can’t talk to this guy for too, too long’ He’s that smart. A smart, smart guy man.
“Stanford – you can’t really say too much more.”
One thing he has learned about his former quarterback is not to count out his knowledge of the comeback.
While the Colts’ starting woes have become problematic in the entire Chuck Pagano era, Luck has managed to pull off 11 fourth quarter comebacks in his young career. That included erasing a 28-point deficit in the 2013 Wild Card Game against the Chiefs – the first playoff win of both Freeman and Luck’s career.
Last week the Colts fell behind 23-6 but rallied in the fourth quarter to get the lead down to three before falling 30-17.
“They can be down 30 and those guys over there – trust me I know – those guys always think they’ve got a chance if they’ve got ’12’ back there,” said Freeman.
Hence the linebacker won’t be smiling as much as he was talking about his former team and quarterback till the final whistle on Sunday.