The fourth-year pro was reminded of that NFL reality after staying away briefly in hopes of getting a new multi-year contract.
That didn’t pan out. No other team made an offer to the restricted free agent, which gave him no other alternative but to accept the Colts’ one-year tender that will pay him $2.356 million.
Asked if the experience was eye-opening, Freeman said Tuesday, “I mean, it’s a business.”
Freeman, who was paid $1.46 million combined for the previous three seasons, reiterated his goal is to stay with the Colts, who gave him a second chance at the NFL after three seasons in the Canadian Football League.
“I mean, this is where I want to be,” he said. “I started here, and this is definitely where I want to finish. I’m hoping to do that.”
When asked about wanting a long-term deal, he quickly dismissed the subject.
“I’m not going to speak on the contract,” said Freeman, 28. “Come on now. Like I said, I would love to be here for the rest of my career. This is a great city, great team, great organization so why wouldn’t I?”
Freeman’s first chance at the NFL was with the Tennessee Titans, who signed the underrated rookie in 2008 but he didn’t make the roster. He eventually became a CFL All-Star, then carried that momentum to the Colts, for whom he’s made 366 tackles and twice led the team in tackles for a season.
“It’s been positive this whole time,” he said of staying away for one week. “I decided to get back with the guys. Went through workouts today. They worked us pretty hard, getting back into the meetings, getting back into the flow of things. I’m pretty excited.”
He was asked if his OTA absence had to do with giving other teams a chance to make an offer. The deadline for making bids on restricted free agents expired Friday.
“It was a few things,” he said. “I just really wanted to get back, get healthy, make sure that when I got back here I was able to go through the whole program and everything. Just get back to work.”
Freeman’s goal for the upcoming season is to stay healthy and improve. He missed four games last season, which reduced his tackle count to 95, but played his best football in the postseason with an NFL-best 32 tackles in three games.
“I can improve on everything,” he said. “Just staying healthy is the main thing. Being in a position where I can play all 16 and then all the ones after that, so we can go try to hoist that thing.”
That would be hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Colts reached the AFC Championship Game last January, a 45-7 loss at New England.
“We’re not satisfied with being the No. 11 defense in the league,” Freeman said. “We want to make that better, getting to the top. The top defenses are the ones that win it all.”
He said his physical limitations due to injuries last season was obvious.
“You can see it. If you watch me, see me on film, I really wasn’t the same me out there,” he said. “I’m not making excuses. I mean, I’m out there on the field, and I feel like I should be able to do my job and do everything it takes to do what I’m supposed to do and do what is expected of me.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.