For his part, Jerrell Freeman wouldn’t admit it. Though he was pressed by the Indianapolis media today for an answer otherwise, he maintained that there’s nothing special about this Sunday’s game and that he’s just treating it like any other game.
But behind the scenes, I have to imagine this one means a little extra. Now a member of the Chicago Bears, he’s returning to Indianapolis to face his former team this Sunday. He spent four seasons as the Colts’ starting inside linebacker, giving them reliable and solid play. And then, this offseason, they moved on from the free agent linebacker.
“It’s not my call,” he said today. “I still have friends that I talk to but the GM thought that that was the best for the team. It is what it is.”
That GM is Ryan Grigson, who opted to let the linebacker walk with a 3-year, $12 million deal from the Bears. The Colts had turned the page and evidently didn’t want Freeman back. That process, according to Freeman, started happening well before he even became a free agent.
“Honestly, I kind of got that vibe [that it wasn’t going to work in Indy] even before that year . They ended up signing Nate [Irving] and paying him more than I made that year so that kind of had me off a little bit. I was like, ‘Is that how it is?’ Later on after that year, it was one of those take it or leave it things. I was like, ‘Four years and that is how it is?’ It was take it or leave it and I was a couple weeks away from free agency so I tested free agency and it was pretty much a, ‘Good luck.’ You know what I mean? Even when I did get the Bears offer and we tried to go back to him, it was like, ‘Yeah, that looks like a good deal, take it.’ I was like, ‘Wow, I guess it’s over.’”
Basically, what Freeman was making clear, is that the Colts had moved on. They didn’t want the linebacker back. He said that he brought the Bears’ offer back to the Colts (who reportedly had offered a very similar deal initially), seemingly wanting to stick around in Indy, and Ryan Grigson just told him to take the Bears deal. The Colts had moved on, and it’s something Freeman saw coming even before the year.
He doesn’t take it personally, however (at least that’s what he says publicly). “That just goes back to how you can’t take it personal,” he said. “They moved on so you have to move on too.”
But did he deserve better from the Colts?
“I don’t feel like I am entitled to anything,” he said. “You have to take life as it comes. I worked hard, developed a lot of relationships. I’ve been around some great guys and been around a great owner. People around the league still don’t understand how great of an owner [Jim] Irsay is. I’ve been around a great coaching staff. I was blessed to be in that situation and now I am in another situation and I am blessed to be here too.”
Freeman is on his way toward another good season, though this time with the Bears. He’s started all four games and has recorded 41 tackles, four tackles for loss, and a pass defensed. He leads the Bears in tackles, with 17 more tackles than anyone else and more than double the tackles of all but one other defender in Chicago (he’s also tied for the third-most tackles in the NFL this season). That’s following four very productive seasons in Indianapolis, but Freeman’s comments today made it clear that the Colts didn’t have much interest in bringing him back.
Instead, they moved on to the likes of Nate Irving, Sio Moore, and Antonio Morrison. Irving and Moore aren’t even on the team anymore, leaving two rookies (Morrison and Trevor Bates), Edwin Jackson, and Josh McNary. That’s not a great replacement plan.
But Freeman has moved on, because the Colts moved on first. This Sunday, he’ll once again play in Lucas Oil Stadium with the Colts on the field, but he’ll be a member of the Chicago Bears. And while he says otherwise, you have to imagine this one means just a little bit more to him.