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Can we just enjoy the ride
posted by: hardcorebillsfan
Nov 26, 2006 8:22 PM

Bills Jaguars game for viewing
posted by: timekills
Nov 26, 2006 8:34 PM

Is anyone else impressed?
posted by: skudz
Nov 26, 2006 9:25 PM

Playoffs (What help we need listed inside)
posted by: The Stamp
Nov 26, 2006 10:09 PM

Couldn't watch a few questions....
posted by: Kurupt
Nov 26, 2006 10:33 PM

Where Are They Now: Steve Freeman
Freeman joined the Bills after being waived by the Patriots

March 12, 2003

Freeman played in 144 straight games from 1975-84.

A decision made by the Patriots after only two preseason games in 1975 affected the Bills for the next 12 years, when Steve Freeman, a rookie safety from Mississippi State, wasn’t in New England’s plans and was waived.

"I was, in essence, told I’m not good enough to play for New England and Buffalo picked me up off the waiver wire. Most of the time to make it if you’re coming off the waiver wire or if you’re a low-round draft choice, you’ve got to be at the right place at the right time. I got lucky," said Freeman. "I got to Buffalo when they were needing some safeties. Tony Greene was injured and I got the opportunity to get on the field and play. In New England, I didn’t ever get on the field. Ninety percent of the kids like myself, coming through the system, need to get on the field and play. Show them what you’ve got."

Freeman showed what he had. Not only as a reserve safety for his first three seasons when he collected three interceptions, including one that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown against Miami, but on special teams as well.

"When you’re coming in as a rookie, you’ve got to play all the special teams to make the club. Back then, we didn’t have much nickel coverage. The nickel coverage didn’t really come in until the late ‘70s. So it was a question of a 42-man roster, how do you make it? You make it as a backup. If not a backup, come in there and start. But if you’re not going to start, you play special teams. You play them all.

"I probably wasn’t totally prepared to start at first. There’s so much to learn and the only way you’re going to learn is generally by making a mistake so you don’t make it again. So I didn’t feel like I was yearning to be a starter until I had learned what I think I needed to learn at my position. Fortunately, I was given the time to do that. The average deal is not but about three years in the league. And you can’t learn anything that you need to learn in those years, you’ve got to have the experience. I had the opportunity to gain that experience before I became a starter."

He also had the opportunity to experience being one of the leaders of the NFL’s top-rated defense in 1980. Buffalo allowed only 256 yards per game and won their division. Freeman had a career-high seven interceptions and was the top tackler among defensive backs. Why was his sixth season one of his most successful?

"Great coaches, great players, we had a great scheme that year. Tom Catlin was our coordinator and Jim Wagstaff was our secondary coach. He was one of those guys that when you played for him, you don’t want to let him down. You’re going to go out there and play your best," Freeman said. "The schemes that we ran put us in situations to make interceptions. It was just a situation of learning the system, learning where to be, learning what everybody else on defense was doing, and having confidence in your abilities to make plays."

From 1975 until late in the ‘84 campaign, Freeman was in on a lot of plays. And in fact, did not miss a game. A 144-game streak. However, during a November game against New England, he suffered a ruptured thigh muscle. The Bills lost that afternoon to go 0-11, but it never crossed Freeman’s mind to let the injury heal properly and finish the disappointing season on the sideline.

"We had Dallas the next week and I was going to play if they had to cut my leg off and put a peg up there. We did all kinds of treatments on it. I got through the Dallas week and got it hit again right at the end of the ballgame. And then the next week, we played Washington and I went out and played one play. I got split out with (wide receiver) Art Monk. They saw me warming up and knew I couldn’t run. They tried an out-and-up on me and I tackled him and took the pass interference. Came out of the ballgame and the next week, I just couldn’t go. We were playing the Colts and there was no way I could run. I couldn’t do anything, so I took a game off."

That was the only game Freeman ever took off during his 12-year career with the Bills. When he left Buffalo via a trade to the Vikings in ‘87, he held the team record for most games with 178. He’s now sixth on the club’s all-time list.

Freeman has a new occupation: a back judge in the NFL.

Now living in Mississippi, Freeman and his wife, Bo, have two sons, Brad, 27; and Ty, 21. A daughter, Carlee, 22. And a grandchild. A custom home builder, Freeman also trains horses and holds riding camps during the summer.

Freeman has one other occupation. Now instead of being on the football field wearing No. 22, shoulder pads and a helmet; he’s on the field wearing No. 133, stripes and a whistle. Freeman is a back judge in the National Football League.

"I enjoy officiating because it’s the next thing to playing. Where else can you leave an NFL field at age 30-whatever and have an opportunity to get back on the field and participate in the ballgame. You can’t! You can come back and coach, but you have to stand on the sideline. You can’t run up and down the field and actually be a participant in the ballgame unless you become an official," said Freeman, who honed his officiating skills in college football (the SEC) and NFL Europe. "I enjoy officiating because I played the game so long and you have a lot of knowledge that you just don’t just need to throw in a wastebasket. You can take the experiences that you had on that field and turn them into becoming a good official. I think not necessarily playing makes you a good official, you have to be knowledgeable in the rules and everything. But definitely, I felt like it helps you be a better official to have played, to have seen the sets, to know the pass routes. I enjoy every Sunday afternoon being back out in the middle of the field, right in the middle of the action."

Where Are They Now Archive

Previous #9 RIAN LINDELL Next
Position Kicker
Height 6-3
Weight 235
College Washington State
Years In NFL 7
Acquired Free Agent '03

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