- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - In Dwight Freeney’s 14th NFL season, his trademark spin move still works just fine.

Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was its latest victim.

Freeney spun around tackle Matt Kalil and stripped the ball from Bridgewater’s hands in the waning seconds of the game, thus preserving Arizona’s 23-20 win over the Vikings last Thursday night.

The play gave him 115 1/2 sacks, good enough for 19th on the NFL career list. His 46 forced fumbles are tied with his former teammate Robert Mathis for most among active players.

A big share of those sacks came when he spun around the would-be blocker, a move he says dates back to his basketball days at Bloomfield High School in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

“Every single time I got the ball in the post I had a little spin move I got called for traveling,” Freeney said. “So I decided to play football. In football there’s no traveling, right? It’s funny but I think it probably started from there.”

Freeney went on to become a first-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts, joining Mathis to wreak havoc on the opposing quarterbacks.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians recalled facing Freeney in those days.

“You had to know where he was all the time and game plan for him,” Arians said after Wednesday’s practice. “…Of course you had Robert Mathis on the other side. It was no piece of cake. Sometimes one of them (you) had to single block and you held your breath.”

Freeney made the Pro Bowl seven times and was a three-time All-Pro selection. He left the Colts in 2012 and spent the last two years with the San Diego Chargers.

Freeney found himself out of work when this season began and was considering retirement when the Cardinals came calling. Arizona had lost its top pass rusher off the edge, Alex Okafor, with a calf injury. Freeney signed a one-year contract on Oct. 13.

His role is limited to obvious passing situations and he did well enough that, when Okafor returned, Freeney stayed in the rotation on an Arizona team that’s 11-2, has won seven in a row and can clinch the NFC West title with a win Sunday night in Philadelphia.

“Two months ago I didn’t know if I was going to play,” Freeney said. “But the things we’re going through now is why I decided to come back, to have these types of feelings, and this camaraderie with this team and just be able to go after another ring.”

He compared his spin move to a pitcher’s “out” pitch.

“I don’t spin every time,” Freeney said. “Sometimes I try to beat you inside. Sometimes I bull rush you. But I try to make them all kind of look the same. I guess the longer you play, you can figure it out, figure out how to make everything look the same so he doesn’t know what’s going to happen.”

The staple in his repertoire, though, is that spin.

“I’m spinning when I get off the bus, I’m spinning when I get out of the locker room,” he said. “That’s just me.”

Freeney signed a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum of $870,000 with incentives that could tack on another $1 million.

The sack of Bridgewater was Freeney’s fourth of the season, earning him an extra $200,000. From here on out, he gets $100,000 per sack up to $1 million.

“I’m not going to try harder because there’s incentives,” Freeney said. “I’m already giving 110 (percent). There isn’t much more to give. But it makes it a little more fun, something to talk about.”

And a little something to put in his pocket.

Notes: Kicker Chandler Catanzaro was named NFC special teams player of the week after kicking three field goals, including the game-winning 47-yarder, against the Vikings. … Six players didn’t practice Wednesday: CB Patrick Peterson (ankle), RB Andre Ellington (turf toe), TE Jermaine Gresham (knee), S Rashad Johnson (ankle), C Lyle Sendlein (knee) and ILB Sean Weatherspoon (illness). … Arians said Peterson has been dealing with a sore ankle and he aggravated it again against Minnesota.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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