‘Sign me up’: Eric Weddle unretires to join Rams on a possible Super Bowl run
The word “crazy” came up several times during a 46-minute video call in which Eric Weddle discussed his decision to come out of retirement and sign with the Rams this week. So did the words “surreal” and “mind-boggling.”
At one point, Weddle was asked if it was “nuts” to think the 37-year-old safety, a full two years removed from his last NFL action, could go from coaching his son’s 12-and-under youth football team and playing pick-up basketball to the SoFi Stadium field for Monday night’s playoff opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
“Yes, yes,” Weddle said of the head-spinning and life-altering series of events that began with a call from Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris on Sunday night. “I had a rush of emotions. You get that call and you’re like, ‘This isn’t really going to happen.’ You’re kind of reserved.
“Then you realize it’s serious, and you get excited, and you realize everything that entails — I’m leaving my family, my kids, the routine. And then it’s kind of overwhelming. You have to take a step back and figure out, ‘Can I do this? Is this realistic? Does it make sense? Can you do what they’re asking you to do?’ ”
All legitimate questions, the answers of which will come Monday night and, if the Rams can get by the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals and advance in the NFC playoffs, over the next few weeks.
With Jordan Fuller out with an ankle injury, the Rams coaxed safety Eric Weddle out of retirement to bolster the defensive backfield in the playoffs.
As great a story as it would be for a Poway father of four who has spent two years shuttling kids to and from football, basketball, volleyball and soccer practice — “Our afternoons consist of the Weddle Taxi Service,” he said — to shore up the Rams’ injury ravaged secondary, there is a fantasy-camp feel to his return.
No matter how in shape Weddle is, no matter how excited he is to join the team he last played for in 2019, it would be unrealistic to think he could join the Rams four months into the season and have a considerable impact on a defense that lost safety Jordan Fuller (ankle) and might be without safety Tyler Rapp (concussion).
But the Rams aren’t expecting Weddle to regain the form that made him a two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection.
With reserve safeties Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess expected to move into starting roles, the hope is that Weddle provides better play than the team’s other options in the secondary. And if the Rams advance, Weddle could have more of an impact as he learns the nuances and concepts of a new defensive scheme.
They’re generations apart -- Cam Akers is 22 and Eric Weddle 37 -- but both are making comebacks with the Rams in hopes of a super season.
“I know how much time and effort goes into a season, but I’m close enough to where I can help out for one game, for all the marbles, for 10-15-20 snaps,” Weddle said. “I can do that. If I didn’t feel like I could go out there and be what I expect to be, then I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Weddle said one of the first questions Morris asked Sunday was, “You’re not fat and out of shape, are you?” To that, Weddle could answer a definitive “no.”
Since his retirement, Weddle has been “training like a mad man” and playing full-court basketball, a sport he played every offseason during his 13-year NFL career because so many of its movements — running, jumping, stops and starts, back-pedaling, change of direction — simulate those of a defensive back.
Weddle has watched every snap of every Rams game this season. He has stayed in regular contact with coach Sean McVay and several players, including star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He has a good feel for how the defense functions and how he might best fit in and help.
“I think what made me great, and made me the player who I was, was how I could process information and quickly learn things and adapt,” Weddle said. “I’ve played in every system, in every different coverage. That stuff is all the same. It’s just the verbiage, the way they call, the way they make checks.
“We went out on the field [on Thursday], and I didn’t make a mistake on any checks or calls. So by Monday night, we’ll be rocking and rolling.”
There is an element of danger to Weddle’s return. Though the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder is in great physical shape, he hasn’t had to tackle a massive tight end such as Arizona’s 6-5, 250-pound Zach Ertz on a crossing route.
“You have to take a step back and figure out, ‘Can I do this? Is this realistic? Does it make sense? Can you do what they’re asking you to do?’ ”
— Rams safety Eric Weddle on coming out of retirement
“Hopefully,” Weddle said, “I’ll be able to walk off the field, not crawl off the field.”
To Weddle, the potential rewards outweigh the risks. He has never played in a Super Bowl, and said “there is no doubt in my mind” the Rams have the pieces to go all the way.
“Whether I’m crazy or not, that’s for everyone else to decide,” Weddle said. “I don’t really care what they think. That’s how much I cherish the chance at a Super Bowl. Sign me up.”
Weddle, a former Utah standout who was a second-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2007, said he thought he would play in multiple Super Bowls after the Chargers advanced to the AFC title game in his rookie year.
The Chargers beat Tennessee in an AFC wild-card game, and Weddle, who had 29 career interceptions — six returned for touchdowns — intercepted a Peyton Manning pass in their 28-24 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in a divisional-round game.
When the Rams signed six-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle last March, his contract included an incentive clause tying wins to ice cream.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers tore a knee ligament in the fourth quarter of the Colts game, and continued to play as the Chargers lost to New England 21-12 in the AFC title game.
The Chargers roster was full of young stars, but neither they, nor Weddle — who played in Baltimore from 2016 to 2018, and for the Rams in 2019 — has won a divisional playoff game since.
“When you’re young, you’re naïve to the game and how hard it is to just make the playoffs, let alone advance and have a chance to be a game away from the Super Bowl,” Weddle said. “When we played in that AFC championship game, I thought everyone was gonna come back, we’ll be healthy and back playing. We went to the second round but never sniffed the championship game since my rookie year.
“I’ve done pretty much everything you can do individually in this game. I’ve had a good career, [I’m] well-respected, but the one thing, why I played, why you sacrifice and turn everything out for your team, is for a chance at a Super Bowl. To sit here with a chance to be a part of a team that has that chance is mind-boggling.”
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