SAN DIEGO (AP) –– Dwight Freeney has already visualized sacking Peyton Manning.
Freeney and Manning were teammates with the Indianapolis Colts for 10 seasons, but the pass rusher could never hit the quarterback in practice.
Now he can get after Manning all he wants, twice a season.
Freeney, who went through his first practice with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday, will face Manning and the AFC West rival Broncos on Nov. 10 at San Diego and Dec. 12 at Denver.
“I mean, it will be no different than how it was in practice but then I actually get to make contact,” Freeney said. “There’s no red jersey, there’s no halo, there’s no I can’t do this, I can’t do that. It’s just go after him. I’ve seen him more than anybody probably has seen him.”
Freeney said there was some interest from the Broncos after the Colts decided not to re-sign him, but that the Chargers afforded a better opportunity.
Freeney and Manning were teammates with the Colts from 2002-2011, although Manning missed the entire 2011 season due to a series of neck surgeries.
“Ten years of hearing him in the huddle in practice, going against him in practice every single day, not being able to hit him, is something for me,” Freeney said. “As a D-lineman, or rush man or linebacker, one of the things you really take pride in is hitting the QB. You kind of want to hit them all, whether they’re on your team or not. For me, it’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully, I’ll get some good opportunities this year.”
Freeney agreed to a two-year contract with the Chargers on May 18, literally as he was boarding a jet for a European vacation. The deal could be worth $13.35 million.
The deal to bring Freeney to the Chargers came four days after outside linebacker Melvin Ingram tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a padless practice. It also helped cushion the loss of outside linebackers Antwan Barnes and Shaun Phillips to free agency.
Freeney is 33 and entering his 12th season.
He was Indianapolis’ career sacks leader with 107 1/2. After recording 13 1/2 sacks in 2009, his totals declined each of the past three years. He had five in 2012.
Freeney, a seven-time Pro Bowler, never seemed comfortable after moving from a 4-3 defensive end, where he spent his first 10 NFL seasons, to a 3-4 outside linebacker. The Chargers run a 3-4 defense.
Freeney said San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano, the younger brother of Colts coach Chuck Pagano, told him there wasn’t anything he did last year that was considered bad.
Freeney said he liked the sound of what John Pagano plans to do with him.
“I think the biggest thing was that, he was going to allow me to do a little bit of what I do,” said Freeney, who will be used as an edge rusher on the right side. “It wasn’t, `Dwight, here, we’re going to take you and put you in this thing and do things that you’re not used to doing.’ He said, `You know what, we’re going to put you in place to make plays, in familiar places, so that you’re comfortable and you can just ball out.”‘
For Freeney, that means “just being comfortable getting after the quarterback, getting after the running back, forward penetration. Not a lot of times am I going to be in reverse, you know, backpedaling, going away from the guy with the ball but I’m sure there will be times when I have to do it. Hopefully the blitz will get there. I’m going to have fun with it.”
Freeney was the 11th overall selection in the 2002 draft. During his time with the Colts, he combined with Robert Mathis to form one of the most fearsome pass-rush tandems in the league. His 44 forced fumbles are the most by any NFL player since 2002 and he was one of 13 players in Colts’ history to participate in more than 100 victories.
Freeney led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004.
Freeney said he thinks he has a lot left.
“We’ll see what happens, but I feel good and I’m glad to be here.”
Chargers rookie general manager Tom Telesco was with the Colts before being hired by San Diego in January.
Freeney and the Chargers will play host to the Colts in a Monday night game on Oct. 14.
Also Wednesday, the Chargers signed first-round draft pick D.J. Fluker to a four-year contract. The right tackle was the last of San Diego’s draft picks to sign.