FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.-- While some could argue that consecutive Pro Bowl nods and back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards would mark a player is in his prime, Devonta Freeman disagrees.
"I haven't even hit my prime yet; I feel like I'm a young running back in the league," Freeman said on Tuesday. "I can get so much better."
And he's doing everything in his power to ensure that happens.
Freeman set a goal to come back to work in tip-top shape – in his mind that meant a bigger, faster, stronger version of himself.
He changed his diet – the running back said he has gained five pounds of muscle – and dedicated himself to his training this offseason in hopes it would help take his game to another level.
"Last year I left some runs out there," Freeman said of things he'd like to improve in the upcoming year. "[In] the open field, [I want to] continue to make guys miss, punishing guys. I just want to be real disrespectful this year when it comes to football."
Look no further than Freeman's rushing totals over the past three seasons to believe Freeman when he says the best is yet to come:
2016: 1,079 yards
2015: 1,056 yards
2014: 248 yards
Freeman played a key role in an offense that averaged 415.8 yards per game in 2016, a franchise record. The 25-year-old recorded 13 total touchdowns on the year, which was the fifth most among running backs.
With Freeman's help, the Falcons scored 540 total points last season, tying them with the 2000 St. Louis Rams for the eighth-most points scored in a season.
Freeman on impressions of new OC Steve Sarkisian: 'definitely a players' coach'
Devonta Freeman and the rest of Atlanta's offensive players have spent the past month getting to know new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The Pro Bowl running back is encouraged by his time with Sarkisian, commending his "flexible" style:
"Definitely a players' coach," Freeman said of Sarkisian. "The thing I like about him is that he's very flexible with every guy on the team. If [there is] something that we have a problem running, we could go up to him and talk to him about it. I believe if we had a good enough reason, he'd let us do it our way. Letting us get comfortable. I definitely think he's going to put us in the best situation to have success."
Freeman echoed what Dan Quinn has said from the beginning—the Falcons' offensive scheme will stay the same, with Sarkisian adding a few wrinkles.
"I think it's going to be pretty much the same thing, a few tweaks here and there," Freeman said. "Majority of the same play calls, same offense."
SBLI scar one Freeman will always remember, using it as fuel
Devonta Freeman said losing SBLI will be a scar he remembers forever, but rather than dwelling on it, he's ready to use it as motivation.
"You aren't going to get over it the next day, it takes time," Freeman said. "It's one of those scars you remember forever. You just have to move on, you can't be salty and negative about it the rest of your life. You just have [to say] 'how can I get better and take advantage of it next time?'"