Two former pass-rushing partners who have remained close friends enjoyed being recognized Wednesday as Defensive Player of the Week in the NFL’s respective conferences.
Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis received the AFC honor for the fourth time in his 13-year career. Former teammate Dwight Freeney, now with the Arizona Cardinals, garnered the NFC award. It’s his fifth such honor, the previous four with the Colts and last time in 2010.
“We talked back and forth the past few days,” Mathis said of their routine chat being more meaningful. “I’m extremely happy for him. We’re having a lot of fun with it.
“I’m very happy my brother got it as well.”
Mathis had five tackles, including four solos with two sacks in the Colts’ 18-12 win at Miami Sunday. His fourth-down sack of Ryan Tannehill halted the Dolphins’ last-minute drive to the 5-yard line.
Freeney had three sacks in a game for the first time since 2006 as the host Cardinals routed the Green Bay Packers 38-8 Sunday. The 14th-year pro admitted he was contemplating retirement before the Cardinals called in October.
Mathis broke Freeney’s Colts franchise sacks record in 2013, and has bumped it to 118 with a team-high seven sacks this season. Freeney, 35, has 118.5 in his career.
That the six-time Pro Bowl selection is coming off a 2014 season lost to an Achilles tendon tear and four-game suspension makes the honor all the more meaningful. He had previously won the award in 2011, 2008 and 2005. It was the 29th career multiple-sack game of his career, another franchise record.
“A whole lot of gas left,” said Mathis, 34.
Mathis is the fourth Colts player to earn a Player of the Week honor this season. Safety Mike Adams (week 5) and cornerback Darius Butler (week 9) were selected for the same honor. Punter Pat McAfee was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in the third week and kicker Adam Vinatieri was selected AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in November.
“I prefer wins over anything else, but I feel blessed to even be back on the field,” said Mathis, who underwent 10 surgeries to repair his left leg and prevent infection. “I count my blessings and am thankful for everything.”
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