FOXBORO, Mass. — A wide smile covered Jonathan Freeny’s face as he addressed reporters in front of his locker — the same locker he occupied during his first stint with the New England Patriots.
“It feels good to be back,” the linebacker said.
Freeny had cups of coffee with the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars after leaving New England but had been unemployed since late October. He spent that downtime working out in his native Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hoping for another chance to revive his NFL dream.
“It was definitely different,” the 28-year-old said. “But that’s all part of the NFL. I’m not the first guy to go through this. I won’t be the last guy to go through this. It’s all part of it. I just looked at it as a testing time and just tried to focus on what I need to, and that’s trying to work on my craft and making my game better so that when I come back, I can play better.”
He added: “I just felt like I wasn’t done playing yet. I know that’s how a lot of football players make it seem when they’re not ready yet, but that’s the way this game goes. It might have been my last game playing, but I just knew that I wasn’t going to give it up until I was ready to.”
Freeny spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Patriots, and he kept in touch with a number of his former teammates during his months away from Foxboro.
“I came back today, and it feels like I haven’t even been gone,” he said.
Coincidentally, Freeny’s first game back will be against the Miami Dolphins this Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium, just a short drive from his hometown. It’s unclear how exactly the Patriots will use him — they’re currently dealing with injuries both at linebacker and on the edge — but he said he’ll be ready to do whatever’s asked of him.
“I would definitely hope so,” Freeny said when asked if he is comfortable enough with the playbook to suit up against Miami. “I’ve been here for two years. In practice, I felt pretty good (Wednesday). My recall was pretty good of the plays and all of those things. So if my number’s called, I’m going to do my best to prepare and study and get ready for Monday night.”