ANDERSON, Ind. —
A fake tweet during the NFL draft in April even gained traction, announcing Freeney had been traded to the New England Patriots for a third-round pick.
None of the rumors proved to be true.
In fact, Pagano sees both Freeney and Mathis as cornerstones in his defensive plan. They have a combined total of 11 Pro Bowl selections and
But most importantly in Pagano’s mind, neither player tried to throw his weight around and complain about the changes.
“It’s all about the ’shoe (on the helmet), and it’s all about your name,”
he said. “It takes a lifetime to build that up and you can make one bad decision, one bad choice and everything that you’ve done to kind of etch your legacy, those guys have done too much. They’ve got way too much pride and they’ve got way too much integrity to do that. So it didn’t shock me.”
They also share a healthy competitive nature that has them excited about the challenge ahead.
Mathis could have opted out. He could have signed with any team running a
4-3 scheme and carried on with his decorated career.
But he made no such move. He wants to help this franchise return to the perennial playoff contender it was from 2002-10, and he believes Pagano and his defense will help get the Colts there.
“You’ve got to buy in,” Mathis said. “You have to shift yourself out and buy in. I bought in all the way. I bought in after we went 2-14 (last year).”
It’s hard to say at this point just how much Mathis’ and Freeney’s roles will change. Freeney estimates he could still line up with his hand in the ground as often as 75 percent of the time, and he admits he isn’t ready to drop back in pass coverage against the NFL’s top receivers.