The thought of playing what might be the final game of his long NFL career did not make Eric Weddle’s eyes well up Sunday. The anticipation of possibly spending more time at home with his children spurred the involuntary response.
Weddle will complete his 13th season Sunday when the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals at the Coliseum. It’s the last game of a lost season for the Rams, who were eliminated from playoff contention by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.
Weddle, 34, made the playoffs five times during stints with the Chargers and Baltimore Ravens. He has experienced playoff-hope deflation eight times.
“They all hurt,” he said in the locker room at the Rams’ Thousand Oaks facility, “but this could possibly be my last so it’s a little bit more sentimental.”
Whether the game against the Cardinals will be the finale of Weddle’s career has not been determined — by Weddle or the Rams.
Before this season, Weddle signed a two-year, $10.5-million contract that included $5.2 million in guarantees — with a $1,000,001 option bonus for 2020 that is due by the end of the league year in March, according to overthecap.com.
Weddle said he‘s been around long enough to recognize that the ascent of rookie safety Taylor Rapp and the return next season of rising star John Johnson makes him expendable in the always churning NFL.
“I know how teams go, and organizations, and to go in that direction like that makes sense to not keep the old guy around,” he said. “Like that’s the reality. If I’m the GM.
“I’m smart. I know how those things work , so I’m just enjoying this week and whatever the decision — whether it’s me or them — it’s all good.”
Then his eyes welled.
“And if it is, I’m ready for the next step of being at home with my kids,” said Weddle, who has resided near the Rams’ facility while his family stayed in San Diego County. “I’ve missed them dearly for the last six months, so I’m excited to see them.”
Weddle is not the only player who could be on the field with the Rams for the final time Sunday.
After the season, coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead will make determinations about players such as linebacker Cory Littleton, edge rusher Dante Fowler and defensive lineman Michael Brockers. McVay also will evaluate his coaching staff.
McVay said he was focused on “finishing the season the right way” against the Cardinals.
“Once we get to that point where the season is finished, there will be a lot of good self-reflection,” he said. “There will be a lot of good evaluation — for everybody, and for us to be able to look at what we can do to be better and hopefully avoid these types of seasons.”
Weddle acknowledged that for a team coming off a crushing loss, motivation could be a challenge. “It’s human nature,” he said.
But the opportunity to play with teammates for a final time, and to leave a good impression with coaches and team personnel, should spur players to play hard.
“Are you going to be a guy that’s going to give it your all and not fold?” Weddle said, “Or are you going to be the other guy?”
Weddle has no doubt that Rapp will come to play. The second-round pick in this year’s draft erred in coverage on a 46-yard pass play that set up the 49ers’ game-winning field goal.
Weddle counseled Rapp after the game. He told him about a costly mistake he made as a rookie in the AFC championship game and in other games as well.
“That stuff happens,” Weddle said. “You live and you learn, so he’ll be fine. ... It’s a team game. Don’t put this on Rapp. It’s on all of us.
“If you’re going to put it on someone, put it on me because I didn’t do a good enough job of helping him.”
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who intercepted his first pass for the Rams, played through a knee injury against the 49ers. McVay said the three-time Pro Bowl player would have an MRI exam and be evaluated throughout the week. … Rookie running back Darrell Henderson suffered a right ankle injury and will have surgery this week, McVay said. … Offensive lineman Rob Havenstein was a full participant in practice last week but was not active against the 49ers, the sixth game sat out since suffering a knee injury. “He hasn’t really been in a position where he feels like he can do the things to play at a high level,” McVay said. “So, we wanted to be smart with this and not push him.” Bobby Evans, who has started in place of Havenstein, suffered a hip injury against the 49ers that forced him to sit out a few series. Chandler Brewer played in Evans’ place before he returned.