By Larry Fine
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Dwight Freeney has a long history of trying to make Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, and the veteran defensive end has been schooling his fellow Atlanta Falcons pass rushers ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl.
"Tom (Brady) is a great player," said 15-year veteran Freeney, who waged memorable battles against Brady and the New England Patriots during his first 11 years in the league with the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning.
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"I think with any quarterback you have to put pressure on him. He's so great at recognizing blitzes, sometimes it's hard to fool him."
Freeney, whose 122.5 career sacks puts him fifth on the NFL's career sack list among active players, joined Atlanta this season after playing for the Arizona Cardinals in 2015.
Besides contributing three sacks, he has been mentoring some of Atlanta's young defensive players, including Vic Beasley, who went from four sacks in his 2015 rookie season to an NFL-leading 15.5 sacks on the way to the Super Bowl.
"Vic, I really took under my wing," Freeney, who turns 37 this month, told reporters. "Vic is a guy who has a lot of the same characteristics and traits that I had when I was coming out (of Syracuse). I was fast, quick and agile.
"My thing with Vic was just try to raise his (football) IQ just a little bit, his awareness, when you use certain moves, when you don't. When you see certain protections, this is what this means so you can do different things.
"He's like a sponge. He wants to learn and I am here to help out however."
Brady told reporters that in studying film, he noticed some of Atlanta's rushers used moves that reminded him of Freeney.
Beasley said Freeney helped him immensely.
"I can't even put that into words," said former first-round pick Beasley. "What Dwight does, he just prepares. He prepares so well week-in and week-out. I just try to take everything I can from him."
Beasley hopes to put some of those lessons to work against Brady on Sunday.
"I'll just try to put pressure in his face," said Beasley.
"Tom Brady is obviously a Hall of Fame quarterback. We understand that they're going to make some plays, but we're going to make some plays also. So, it's going to be a good game."
(Editing by Andrew Both)