Defensive end Dwight Freeney said he was "jaw on the ground" shocked when he got the news that the Seattle Seahawks had placed him on waivers last week.
But he also said it's funny sometimes how things work out, and how a career can come full circle.
Freeney started off his NFL career in Indianapolis in 2002, when Jim Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach. Now, 16 years and 125.5 sacks later, Freeney reunites with Caldwell in Detroit.
"I don't know if this is going to be the last thing for me, the last year," Freeney said after practice Monday. "But if it is, it's just amazing to be here with extended family with Jim and those guys."
The history with this coaching staff doesn't just run deep with Caldwell, either. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was the secondary coach at Syracuse when Freeney was terrorizing quarterbacks in college.
Freeney was elated when the Lions put the waiver claim on him, not only because of his relationship with Caldwell and Austin, but because he joins a team in the thick of a playoff race, which he said Monday was important to him.
Freeney said he was trapped up in a numbers game in Seattle that caught him completely off guard last week. The Seahawks had some injuries at linebacker, and they were deep at edge rusher. Freeney said he just happened to be the low guy on the Totem pole. Freeney said he was told by Seattle's front office they planned to sign him right back if he cleared waivers.
Obviously, Seattle didn't get that opportunity. The Lions snatched up Freeney, and are hoping he can give their pass rush, which ranks 21st in the NFL with 23 sacks, a boost. Freeney had three sacks in four games played in Seattle this season.
"I'm still having fun," Freeney said. "I think I have a lot left. I'm here to help out however (I can)."
The days of him getting 55 or 60 snaps in a game are probably over at age 37, though he joked Monday he could still do it if needed. But 35 to 40 good reps on are still in the cards, he said.
"That's an elite pass rusher," fellow defensive end Ziggy Ansah said Monday of his new teammate. "I'm just so excited we got him. He definitely does bring a veteran presence and I'll definitely learn a few things from him. Maybe you'll see me spin sooner or later."
The Lions are shorthanded upfront along their defensive line, having already lost defensive end Kerry Hyder (Achilles) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (bicep).
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Freeney's career totals include 341 total tackles, 125.5 sacks, 47 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 16 pass defenses. He originally entered the NFL in 2002 after being drafted in the first round (11th overall) by the Colts out of Syracuse.
"Guy that's been around, he's still got juice," Caldwell said Monday about his new pass rusher. "You take a look, he's been productive anytime that he's been on the field, and we'll expect him to be productive for us as well.
"How we'll use him? We'll make a real good determination of that as we go through the week, but he'll be able to do something for us."
Freeney said he's "excited" to be a part of Austin's scheme. The two hadn't talked a whole lot yet because of the long holiday weekend about how he'll be used. Those conversations started to ratchet up Monday.
"You guys have here a great base," Freeney said. "We just have to turn the corner here and stop the run a little bit more and get after the quarterback."
Freeney plans to help any way he can with both tasks starting Sunday in Baltimore.