- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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His first season in San Diego was a disappointment, cut short when he tore a quad tendon during a Week 4 contest against Dallas that required surgery.
But Freeney has been down this road before. He suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot that cut short his 2007 season, then returned to the field and notched 10.5 sacks the next year.
Freeney is not injury-prone; before last season he had missed only 13 games in 11 seasons. He has played in at least 14 games in 10 of his 12 years in the NFL.
"I think every year I'm trying to get the same types of things out of it -- being effective and helping the team win, however that is," Freeney said. "And now this year you add a couple other things to it. You want to go out there and just completely play as hard as you possibly can. And not only that, prove to everybody that I'm back.
"I think that's always going to be there, regardless of whether I got hurt or not, because there's always that question mark. It's not only showing everybody, it's showing myself that I can still go out there and be very effective. And I can still play with the top guys out there in the league. That's just my mentality."
Freeney doesn't need a lot of reps during minicamp to get ready for the regular season and knows what is expected of him in defensive coordinator John Pagano's system. And with 108 career sacks to his credit, Freeney understands how to get to the quarterback.
For the first time during offseason work, Freeney participated during individual drills with the linebackers on the opening day of San Diego's mandatory minicamp Tuesday. Freeney reiterated that he's 100 percent healthy and that if the Chargers had a game this week, he could play.
Of course, the Chargers do not open the season at Arizona for nearly three months (Sept. 8).
"I'm coming along really good," Freeney said. "I'm taking baby steps here. We're not playing the Cardinals yet, so for me it's just making sure I have confidence in what I'm doing. The training staff and everybody is really excited with where I'm at."
A healthy Freeney should boost a defensive front that struggled to get to the quarterback last season. Along with Freeney, the Chargers have a deep group of edge pass-rushers who include Melvin Ingram, Jarret Johnson, rookie Jeremiah Attaochu, Thomas Keiser, Cordarro Law, Tourek Williams and Larry English.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is pleased to see Freeney working on the other side of the ball during practice.
"He seems to me to be excited and anxious to get back out there," Rivers said. "Because he was really kind of getting it going when he went down last year, so if he's a lot of the old Freeney, he'll be a big boost for us."
Entering his 13th season, Dwight Freeney's focus is on getting to training camp healthy. The San Diego Chargers edge rusher also is out to prove he can still be effective.