The Super Bowl Report: Eric Weddle missed the raw emotion of football
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Mike DiGiovanna on the Rams: Eric Weddle seemed perfectly content with his decision to retire after the 2019 season, his 13-year career as an NFL safety giving way to a less stressed life filled with pickup basketball games, coaching his son’s football team and shuttling his three daughters to and from basketball, volleyball and soccer practice.
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The only time the Poway father of four felt even a pang of regret in two years away from the game was on Sept. 13, 2020, when the Rams — the team he played his last year for in 2019 — beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in the season opener.
“When I saw everyone hugging up after that huge win, that was the only moment over the last year and a half that I was like, ‘Man, I wish I was there,’ ” Weddle said. “The raw emotion, the excitement, the grind, everything that goes into getting a win … you just can’t replicate that outside of football.”
Weddle missed that feeling far more than he had realized, which is why, when the Rams put out an SOS for their injury-plagued secondary in early January, the 37-year-old jumped at the opportunity.
Three playoff victories later, Weddle will experience perhaps the greatest adrenaline rush in all of sports when he and the Rams take the SoFi Stadium field for the Feb. 13 Super Bowl LVI game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, a second chance at your dream,” Weddle said on a video call this week. “I’m playing with house money. There’s no pressure on me. I’m here for a reason, so let’s go play ball and do what I’ve done my whole life and leave everything on the field.”
The words “crazy” and “surreal” and “mind-boggling” came up in Weddle’s first video call after his Jan. 12 signing, and he didn’t necessarily disagree with a reporter who asked if it was “nuts” to think a 37-year-old who was a full two years removed from his last NFL action could contribute to a playoff team.
“I love challenges, and I knew the outside perception was gonna be like, ‘This guy can’t do it, what are they thinking?’ ” Weddle said. “And that just fuels me to the core. I’ll bet on me any day of the week.”
The gamble has paid off for the Rams, as Weddle has bolstered a secondary that lost starting safeties Jordan Fuller (ankle) and Taylor Rapp (concussion) to injuries and moved Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess to starting roles.
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SUPER BOWL POLLS
Two Super Bowl polls for you to vote in: Which team will win, and who will be named the game’s MVP? Click here to vote. Results will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.
Gary Klein on the Rams: Kevin O’Connell grew up in Carlsbad, played college football at San Diego State and coached the last two seasons for the Rams.
But the Southern California native does not lack for heavy winter clothes.
“I had lived in some cold places before coming back to California,” O’Connell, the Rams’ offensive coordinator said Friday during a videoconference with reporters. “I might have to dust off a few but I can tell you that I do own a very warm coat.”
O’Connell supplied that wardrobe update while attempting to delicately talk around what will be his next destination after the Rams play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium.
O’Connell, 36, is expected to be officially hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their next head coach. The team has not announced the hiring, but a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that O’Connell will become the fourth former assistant to Sean McVay to become an NFL head coach.
Matt LaFleur, 42, was offensive coordinator on McVay’s 2017 staff. He called plays for the Tennessee Titans for one season and then was hired in 2019 by the Green Bay Packers, who he has led to the playoffs three times and the NFC championship game twice.
Zac Taylor, 38, was a Rams assistant receivers coach in 2017 and quarterbacks coach in 2018 before the Bengals hired him as head coach. After finishing 2-14 and then 4-11-1 in his first two seasons, Taylor has the Bengals in the Super Bowl.
Brandon Staley, 39, the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020, was hired by the Chargers and guided his team to a 9-8 record this season.
And now O’Connell is poised to join the fraternity of 32 NFL head coaches.
O’Connell opened his videoconference by trying to steer questions away from his next coaching stop.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of things going on, a lot of things that I’m absolutely looking forward to,” he said before taking questions from reporters. “But none more so right now than our preparation for this game.”
WHAT TO DO IN L.A.
The Super Bowl is coming to Los Angeles, and with it a laundry list of parties, concerts and “experiences.”
Football’s biggest night will take place at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, featuring the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. (The Rams are technically the visiting team, as the official “host” rotates each year between the AFC and NFC.)
Tickets for the big game are going for an average of $9,249 — and that’s not including parking, which could set you back another several thousand dollars. If you’re looking for a (relatively) cheaper way to get in on the festivities, we’ve got your roundup of Super Bowl week events, sorted from free to big ticket.
Click here for a list of 10 things to do in L.A. during Super Bowl week.
SUPER BOWL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Super Bowl Sunday
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 1/2 points
TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports
To buy tickets (after mortgaging your house to afford them): Ticketmaster, OnLocation, HOFExperiences, VividSeats, SeatGeek
Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.
Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.
BEST PRO FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT
Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.
We continue with the second-round results from the Jim Brown Region:
No. 1 1972 Miami Dolphins d. No. 9 1963 San Diego Chargers, 24-10
Paul Warfield hauled in a 45-yard touchdown pass and Jake Scott returned an interception 44 yards for six points as the Dolphins led 24-0 after three quarters.
No. 2 1962 Green Bay Packers d. No. 10 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 33-20
Bart Starr threw for 269 yards and three touchdowns, two to Ron Kramer, and Boyd Dowler had 135 receiving yards.
No. 11 1993 Dallas Cowboys d. No. 3 1986 New York Giants, 21-20
Michael Irvin had 122 yards receiving and Alvin Harper caught a touchdown pass from Troy Aikman with 29 seconds to go in the game for the Cowboys. Joe Morris rushed for 116 yards in a losing effort.
No. 4 1973 Miami Dolphins d. vs. No. 5 1977 Dallas Cowboys, 13-6
The Dolphin defense held Roger Staubach to 131 yards and intercepted two (Dick Anderson and Tim Foley) of his passes in the victory.
Tomorrow: Second-round results from the Walter Payton Region. The teams:
No. 1 1985 Chicago Bears vs. No. 8 2017 Philadelphia Eagles
No. 3 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. No. 6 1953 Detroit Lions
No. 5 1963 Chicago Bears vs. No. 13 2006 Indianapolis Colts
No. 7 1994 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 15 1951 Los Angeles Rams
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOTBALL PLAYER?
I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at email@example.com. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.
Ed Arvizo of Albuquerque: Joe Scibelli. I know, who? My uncle was the head tailor at JC Penney’s in Long Beach and Joe Scibelli would come in and have my uncle tailor his suits- I think my uncle said he wore around a size 60 coat. As a young boy following the Rams and playing offensive line my name got brought up many times during their conversations and I remember getting a personal note signed by Joe. I felt very special and grateful not only to my uncle but to Joe for his kind words of encouragement. The unsung heroes on the offensive and defensive lines have always held a special place in my heart.
Jim Davis: Mine would be Jack Lambert (can you guess that I spent my formative years in Western Pennsylvania?). He epitomized the city of Pittsburgh and it’s defense-minded football team. Pound for pound, he was as good as it gets.
Randy Abril: I really had to sit and think about this for a while because there are so many players on my favorite list. I have a favorite player for each position but if I had to choose it would be between Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson. I chose Dickerson. He had breakaway speed and had a natural cutback. But my favorite thing about his running style was he could deliver a punishing blow when you tried to tackle him. He was iconic to me when I played high school football and I tried to be the type of runner he was. I remember watching every game of the Rams 1984 season when Eric broke the single season rushing record. As a lifelong Rams fan Eric will always be my favorite running back of all time. I had the pleasure of meeting him this year at a Rams game as he stood outside his suite. Thanks for the memories, Eric!
Highlights from Super Bowl XVII. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl XVIII. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl XIX. Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl XX. Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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