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Looking back at SB XXXI Season: Antonio Freeman

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Cheesehog, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. Cheesehog

    Cheesehog Cheesehead

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    Catch phrase big part of Freeman's life
    By MARTIN HENDRICKS
    Special to Packer Plus
    Posted: July 13, 2006
    No matter where former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman travels, he's asked about the "catch."

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    Now splitting time between residences in his hometown of Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and three years removed from catching his last Brett Favre pass, Freeman never tires of discussing his game-winning touchdown catch in a 26-20 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 2000.

    "It's the most commonly asked question I get, more than my 81-yard touchdown catch in the Super Bowl, or any other individual play," Freeman said with a laugh.

    "I just call it 'The Catch.' Dwight Clark had his catch against Dallas, Terrell Owens had his catch against the Packers, and I guess I had mine against Minnesota. Sometimes it seems it's the only thing people remember about my career. That's OK - at least they remember me. It's a hot topic wherever I go."

    Freeman said the exposure of winning an ESPN "ESPY Award" for the play and the various television networks replays of his miraculous catch have made it part of National Football League lore.

    "People ask me all the time, 'How'd you do it?' " Freeman said. "I explain that it was all concentration on the ball. That simple. The play was my mark, what I'll always be remembered for."

    On the national stage of "Monday Night Football" on November 6, 2000, at Lambeau Field, Freeman caught Favre's deflected rainbow throw while flat on his back at the Minnesota 15-yard line. The ball stayed alive by bouncing off his left leg and Freeman reached out and grabbed it before it hit the ground.

    Untouched, he jumped up from the rain-slicked turf, juked one defender, and raced by stunned Vikings players into the end zone.

    Announcers Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren's call of the play on the Packer Radio Network, as described in the team's 2005 Media Guide, became an instant Packer classic.

    Larrivee: "Slot left, Freeman wide right, Green the lone back. Third down Packers, under a blitz . . . ."

    McCarren: "Here they come."

    Larrivee: "Favre pop fly to the right side. Freeman trying to adjust to it, and it's incomplete, nearly intercepted by Cris Dishman."

    McCarren: "Wait a second."

    Larrivee: "Wait a minute. Freeman picked it up. It bounced into his hands."

    McCarren: "It rebounded into his hands."

    Larrivee: "Touchdown!"

    McCarren: "Touchdown! We win."

    Larrivee: "Packers win. I don't believe it."

    McCarren: "Wayne, it was meant to be. It was meant

    to be."

    Larrivee: "I can't believe it. . . . Dishman thought that ball was on the ground. The ball stayed alive, Dishman tipped it and it looked like he broke it up. I thought the play was over. Freeman made the grab, took it into the end zone. Touchdown Packers! Forty-three-yard touchdown and they win."

    His toughness and durability were displayed on several occasions.

    In 1996, Freeman broke his left arm against Tampa Bay on October 27, missed four games, and then played the final four regular season games with a cast.

    In 1998, he broke his jaw against Philadelphia on November 29 and missed one game before playing the final three with extra padding in his chin strap and ear pads.

    "My mouth was wired shut for 10 days and I played a game on the 12th day," Freeman said. "The toughest thing it was around Thanksgiving, and I missed out on all the great meals my mother and girlfriend were cooking.

    "Turkey, chicken, greens, mac and cheese. All I could eat was through a straw. And Brett and the guys thought that it was hilarious when I tried to talk with my jaw wired shut. No talking, no food, no sleep for 10 days."

    Today, Freeman can't wear his coveted Super Bowl ring, the result of eight years of catching Brett Favre passes.

    "I broke or sprained every finger, and now I can't get my Super Bowl ring over my knuckle," Freeman said with a laugh. "With Brett, you just gotta buckle up and catch it any way you can. With his velocity and factor in the cold weather, there's nothing like it. Anybody can catch hard balls in the heat or a nice day, but it's something else in the extreme cold when you can't feel your hands."

    The flamboyant and out-going Freeman, a 6-1, 198-pound receiver, was known for his big-play capabilities in his eight-year career in Green Bay. Never noted for his speed, Freeman used his intelligence and quickness to become a reliable and favorite target of Favre's in the Packers West Coast offense.

    "I was a true West Coast offense type of receiver - I used the short gains to make the long gains possible," he said. "I wasn't going to run by everybody, but I could make the tough catches on third down or over the middle."

    Freeman is fifth on Green Bay's all-time career receiving list with 431 receptions for 6,651 yards with a 15.4-yard average per catch. His reception total trails only Sterling Sharpe (595), James Lofton (530), Don Hutson (488) and Boyd Dowler (448).

    He holds nine franchise playoff records and shares in four others, including most career receptions (47 in 14 games), most career reception yards (748 in 14 games), longest reception (81 yards vs. New England in 1997), longest punt return (76 yards vs. Atlanta in 1995), most career touchdowns (12), and most career touchdown receptions (10).

    Freeman saved some of his best performances for the Super Bowl, with three receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown against New England in Super Bowl XXXI and nine receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns vs. Denver in Super Bowl XXXII.

    "We had the ultimate team concept in 1996," Freeman said. "It was really a humble group of guys. Reggie White, our leader, was humble so it really rubbed off. One of the greatest players in NFL history said it was Brett Favre's team, not his, that we'd go as far as Brett would take us.

    "We all know about Brett and how special No. 4 is. We had great chemistry in the locker room and that makes it fun to go to work and do your job. With that team, we knew all things were possible."

    Freeman said he enjoyed a great friendship with teammate Robert Brooks, who took him under his wing and taught him how to be successful on a professional level after being selected by Green Bay in the third round of the 1995 draft out of Virginia Tech.

    "When I came in, Robert showed me how to play and what to do," Freeman said. "He helped me adjust to the NFL game. No one forced Robert to do that. He helped me out, a young guy who could take his job. You just don't see that much.

    "He told me he was teaching me because if he got hurt, I had to play and carry the torch. We studied film after practice together, celebrated each other's touchdowns and success, did the Lambeau Leap, and just had fun. It ended up trickling down, because when Donald Driver came in, I helped teach him the game."

    Freeman and Brooks in 1997 were the most productive receiving duo in Packer history, accounting for 2,253 yards in the regular season. Freeman totaled 81 catches for 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brooks had 60 receptions for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns.

    This broke the team record set in 1983 of 2,130 yards held by James Lofton and John Jefferson in quarterback Lynn Dickey's heyday.

    Freeman and Favre formed the most prolific passing combination in Packer history, and one of the best in National Football League history. The duo combined for 57 touchdowns from 1995-2001, fifth on the all-time list.

    Ahead of them are some of the greatest names in the game: San Francisco's Steve Young and Jerry Rice with

    85 from 1987-'99, Miami's Dan Marino and Mark Clayton with 79 from 1983-'92, Buffalo's Jim Kelly and Andre

    Reed with 65 from 1986-'96, and Baltimore's Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry with 63 from 1956-'67.

    Freeman became only the fifth Packer to lead the NFL in receiving yards with a 1,424 on a career-high 84 catches in 1998. He led the team in receptions from 1996 through the 1999 seasons, but his production diminished in 2000 (65 receptions, 999 yards, 4 TDs) and 2001 (52 catches, 818 yards, 6 TDs) as new coach Mike Sherman began to alter and stretch the Packers' West coast offense.

    Freeman was released by Green Bay following the 2001 season after refusing to take a pay cut. Two incidents in 2000 strained his relationship with the coaching staff, as Freeman was sentenced to a year of probation for obstructing Green Bay police in a traffic accident case in February.

    He was then fined by Sherman for returning late from a bye week and suspended for the final game of the season for being late to a team meeting the night before the contest.

    "I was asked by Mike Sherman to take a pay cut in 2002, so I went to Philly for a fresh start," he said. "My time in Philly was great (46 receptions, 600 yards, 4 TDs) - I helped teach Freddy Mitchell to be the No. 3 receiver. When I came back to Green Bay in 2003, it was Freddy who caught the fourth-and-26 pass against us in the playoffs. I think I taught him too well."

    Freeman finished the 2003 season with 14 receptions for 141 yards and no touchdowns, as Driver, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker emerged as the primary wide receivers. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins in the 2004 pre-season, but released in September before the season opener and retired from the game.

    Freeman, 34, is enjoying life and evaluating his business career options. A serious basketball fan, he is a Washington Wizards' season-ticket holder and also attends NBA games throughout the country.

    "I'm a basketball fanatic - basketball was always my first love," said Freeman, a former standout in the sport at Baltimore's Polytechnic High School. "I got a lot of flack from Coach Sherman about driving up the highway to Milwaukee to catch the Bucks during the week. Watching basketball was just what I do to relax and for recreation."

    Freeman said the atmosphere at basketball games is calmer than at football games.

    "I can have a conversation with people, it's a milder kind of 'happy hour' feeling," said Freeman, a huge fan of San Antonio star Tim Duncan. "At football games, the atmosphere is more intense, with some fans toasted by kickoff.

    "Everybody spends their disposable income on something - I spend mine on going to basketball games. Over the years, I've met players like Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) and Duncan. I just love basketball - it's my thing."

    And, no doubt, discussing his miraculous catch against Minnesota more than a few times.
     
  2. yooperfan

    yooperfan Cheesehead

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    Great article!
    Thanks for sharing that, it brings back memories of better days.
     
  3. greenbegas

    greenbegas Cheesehead

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    always loved freeman! he was awesome!
     
  4. digsthepack

    digsthepack Cheesehead

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    As tough a player as ever wore the Green and Gold.
     
  5. fvre4mvp

    fvre4mvp Cheesehead

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    Gotta love surehands free
     
  6. eastcoastpacker

    eastcoastpacker Cheesehead

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    I saw that game,I went nuts watching him get the TD. I always liked him,I just wish he was about 8 years younger!
     
  7. PackerLegend

    PackerLegend Cheesehead

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  8. Popcynical

    Popcynical Cheesehead

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    Maan... I remember that catch against the Vikes where everyone thought the ball was down... nope! He got up and ran it in... man that was great.
     
  9. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    Nothing but good things to say about Freeman? Man I remember his last couple seasons, the one's after he signed the big contract. Some of the Packer fans were ripping him. I always defended him but sometimes got ripped myself for doing it. Where are all these people?
     
  10. NDPackerFan

    NDPackerFan Cheesehead

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    Who cares DePack? Apparently, those people are gone and we're enjoying one of the better receivers in Packer history and his miraculous play against the 'Queens!

    That TD reception has to rank in there with one of the all-time greats...I still to this day cannot believe he came down with that ball. What a way to win a game and to do it against the hated Vikes...awesome.
     
  11. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    Wish the players on the Packers today would have the "team" attitude. Maybe they could get back to the SB, instead of whining about who's making more money!
     
  12. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    that is the td where Al Michales said

    HE DID WHAT???????
     
  13. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    Noooo some of them are still here!!!! I care......I can't stand it when people rip what I consider to be a loyal ex Packer. In the future, I will PM my messages to you first to see if you think anybody cares O.K.? :roll:
     
  14. NDPackerFan

    NDPackerFan Cheesehead

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    No need for that DePack...just make sure that you are overly sensitive to anything anybody writes concerning your posts ok? Oh, and please, NOT THE EYE ROLL..God I've been put in my place by the infamous EYE ROLL!!!

    My point is that Freeman's catch and career for the Packers was awesome and if you see it that way too, let's celebrate it and not worry about some hypocritical people out there. They'll always be there, don't let it tear you up man...relax, geez.
     
  15. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    Yea.....It really tore me up You asked me a question and I answered it. Who needs to relax? :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:
     
  16. NDPackerFan

    NDPackerFan Cheesehead

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    You do. :loser:
     
  17. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    Much better....the smiley with the "loser" is much better than the rolly eyes :roll: Wipe!
     
  18. digsthepack

    digsthepack Cheesehead

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    Geez, DePack. First you sprout a man-gina, and now it seems you are being visited by "Aunt Flo". Lighten up, buddy!!
     
  19. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    Why do I get the blame on this? Perhaps my first post hit home. First I get a "who cares" response then a "you're on the rag" response. Sorry to get all your feathers ruffled. Let's just pretend everyone treated Freeman great in his last years.

    Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya........ :roll:
     
  20. trippster

    trippster Cheesehead

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    That was a great play. I was there. right even with the eleven yardline and fourteen rows back from where he caught it. I could clearly see that the ball never touched the ground. I was yelling Get up! Get up!....my buddy kept asking why?? I had a perfect angle. and by the way, he was on his stomach and then rolled to his right side. The ball bounced off his left shoulder pad and not his leg.
     
  21. NDPackerFan

    NDPackerFan Cheesehead

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    The "who cares" response was originally aimed at those who are idiots giving you shiite when you defended Freeman...apparently your dislocated man-gina hurt too bad that you couldn't see that. Anyway, see a chiropractor about that dislocation and let's all get along. Kumbaya... :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:

    Go Antonio Freeman!!!
     
  22. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    hahaha

    sand in his man-gina
     
  23. digsthepack

    digsthepack Cheesehead

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    Aw, ****, DePack....I had no idea where the dialogue was coming from or where it was going. All I saw was you being testy, which provided me an opportunity to give you shite....that's all.

    Freeman was a great player for many years, but his last few left something to be desired.

    Nobody is all angel or saint.
     
  24. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    digs......some children are stealing your "man-gina" stuff without proper bibliographic credit!


    By the way ND.....chiropractor's deal with bones to the best of my knowledge. My man-gina is mostly cartilage and muscle!
     
  25. digsthepack

    digsthepack Cheesehead

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    The world is full of thieves who make a living off of my wit....I cannot keep track of it all!!

    Cartilage and muscle....you make it sound so sexy.

    So, do you go "landing strip" or are you a little more....oh, shall we say, organic??
     

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