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Rams

Rams’ Eric Weddle recalls lessons learned playing with Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, left,  talks to former teammate, Rams safety Eric Weddle, after the teams’ joint practice.
Chargers quarterback Phil Rivers, left, talks to former teammate, Rams safety Eric Weddle, after the teams’ joint practice.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

The two former teammates, with 14 Pro Bowl selections between them, each dropped to one knee behind the line of scrimmage and engaged in conversation during Thursday’s joint practice between the Rams and the Chargers.

Rams safety Eric Weddle played nine seasons for the Chargers before signing with the Rams after three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. The near-decade he spent practicing against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers provided a master class that helped Weddle become one other NFL’s top players at his position.

Weddle and Rivers revisited those times during a two-hour workout at the Chargers’ facility in Costa Mesa. They chatted about family, and also exchanged information about what they saw from each other and from their teams.

“Those are the conversations you miss,” Weddle said, “It’s helped me become the player I am.”

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Weddle has yet to play a game in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme, but Rams players on offense and defense have raved about his knowledge and leadership.

The former standout at Rancho Cucamonga Alta Loma High and Utah replaces Lamarcus Joyner in a defense that includes starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and safety John Johnson.

Weddle, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, has 29 interceptions and has scored four touchdowns. Last season, for only the second time in 12 seasons, he did not intercept a pass. But he still made the Pro Bowl.

Eight months after a season-ending knee injury, wide receiver Cooper Kupp appears on track to start in the Rams’ season opener at Carolina.

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Weddle said Rivers, a near-certain future Hall of Famer, did not test him much Thursday.

“It’s all right, though,” Weddle said. “It was fun. I love and have the utmost respect for him and all the players I used to play with.

“So it was fun to get out there on the practice field and compete.”

Weddle wasn’t the only one enjoying a reunion.

Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson joined coach Sean McVay’s staff after spending the last two seasons as an assistant defensive line coach on Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s staff.

Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram hugged Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry, who worked for the Chargers from 2011 to 2014.

A joint practice, Weddle said, breaks up the monotony of training camp.

“It makes you play true and honest,” he said. “You get used to going against your own guys and can anticipate certain things, certain route combinations and certain plays.”

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The work is especially helpful because Rams starters will not play in preseason games.

“So we treat this like a game atmosphere,” Weddle said. “You know when you make the play and you know when you don’t, and your teammates know that too.”

The Rams and Chargers will practice together again Saturday at UC Irvine.

Gurley full participant

Running back Todd Gurley took snaps in all drills and did not show any sign of discomfort.

“It was fun, man,” Gurley said. “You kind of hate these practices when the schedule comes out, but once you get to ‘em, it’s fairly easy going, good work against another team.”

The Rams are monitoring the workload placed on Gurley and his left knee.

Asked if his knee was OK, Gurley said, “I’m out here practicing.”

Los Angeles Rams rookie Greg Gaines, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, is in contention for to start at defensive tackle.

Gurley looked “really good,” McVay said.

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“Good command, even just his energy when he’s talking to his teammates,” McVay said. “He’s got a natural enthusiasm about him. ... He just brings up the level of everybody around him.”

Etc.

Receiver Cooper Kupp, who is coming off knee surgery, was a full participant in the Rams’ first four practices but was held out of scrimmage drills Thursday. “We really wanted to see what was the tempo like before we kind of put him out there,” McVay said. “And given the way the Chargers were so professional about the way they practiced — and I’d like to think it was the same for our guys — I think you can expect to see him get some work Saturday.” Receivers Mike Thomas, JoJo Natson and Josh Reynolds, and tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee were among those who made impressive plays. ... Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was ranked No. 1 in NFL Media annual “Top 100 Players,” poll, which comes from a balloting of nearly 1,100 players. Donald, the two-time NFL defensive player of the year, deserved the recognition, McVay said. “I’m not going to argue with that,” he said. “He’s a special player, and the best part about Aaron is you know his mindset and mentality is, ‘I haven’t even played my best ball yet.’ ”


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