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Dwight Freeney: I try to hate Tom Brady, but I can’t

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Defensive end Dwight Freeney #93 of the Indianapolis Colts sacks quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2005 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney has faced Patriots quarterback Tom Brady many times, and often in big games when Freeney played for the Colts. But Freeney doesn’t view Brady as the enemy heading into Super Bowl LI.

Freeney said today that he has gotten to know Brady well enough that he likes him personally, and as a result he can’t motivate himself with personal animosity.

“The thing is, I try to hate the guy, but I can’t because he is a good guy,” Freeney said of Brady. “I know him personally off the field, too – he is a good dude. I guess it comes with the territory, just playing as long as I have been and as long as he has been. We have had a rivalry in the Colts versus the Patriots for years – it was like they were in our division since we played them twice a year, because we played them once in the regular season and once in the postseason. We knocked them out, they knocked us out, so it is kind of those things where you know it is going to be a battle. You know it is going to be a war. At the end, you have so much respect for them because of the fact that they are such a great franchise and they can continually make it to this moment year in and year out, even when they have changes on the team. They go through adversity throughout the years. Tom is not playing the first four games and they are still here. It is a testament to what they do around there.”

Sunday may be the last time Freeney and Brady meet on the field. Theirs has been a rivalry of respect.