LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles Rams must play without their two starting safeties in their opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. Best tackler Jordan Fuller is out for the season with a right ankle injury, and Taylor Rapp is on NFL concussion protocol.
It means Eric Weddle is entirely likely to play meaningful snaps in a post-season game nearly two years after retiring as a suburban dad, driving his four children to school activities and coaching the son’s football team.
It’s a remarkable turn of events for a two-time All-Pro safety who voluntarily left the NFL with a one-year contract and never thought he retired too soon. Weddle and the Rams both think he can make it work.
“It’s crazy to say this, but it feels like I never left,” Weddle, 37, said this week after starting training for one of the most unlikely comebacks in the game. recent history of the NFL. “When I’m out there playing and seeing routes and moving, it’s in me. It’s who you are. That’s what I’ve done all my life. »
Weddle hadn’t even thought about returning to the Rams – the team he spent the last of his 13 NFL seasons with in 2019 – until he received desperate phone calls from Sean McVay and the defensive coordinator Raheem Morris last Sunday night after Fuller and Rapp were injured.
“I would regret it if I didn’t come and take this chance to help the guys I love, a coach I love, whatever role he plays,” Weddle said. “How can I look (to) my team or my kids – or anyone, for that matter – if I haven’t followed what I preach?”
Wade Phillips was the Rams’ defensive coordinator for Weddle’s only season with the team, but Weddle has been friends with Morris since coaching Weddle in the Senior Bowl. When Los Angeles realized their safety depth was in trouble, Morris hit Weddle with a great opening line: “You’re not fat and out of shape, are you?”
“He said, ‘I’ll never be fat,'” Morris recalled with a smile. “I know he trains constantly, keeps himself fit. His brain is unlike any other. It’s like a trainer.
Although he spends much of his time in suburban San Diego running the “Weddle taxi service,” as he described it, Weddle also plays basketball as much as possible, a hobby he enjoys. he’s kept throughout his decorated career as an All-Safety pro for the Chargers, Ravens and Rams because the stop-and-start hoops moves look beneficial for defensive backs.
Weddle lost weight to lighten his knees, but that loss of muscle mass didn’t stop him from “training like crazy,” as he put it. Weddle has been an elite athlete for too long to give up a lifetime of working out habits – and he was ready when the opportunity came, even though he didn’t expect it.
And Weddle isn’t cold: He’s watched every try in every Rams game this season. The six-time Pro Bowl safety spent every week texting his friends still with the team, especially McVay and All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Although they only played half a season together after Ramsey arrived in a trade from Jacksonville in 2019, Weddle and Ramsey share an on-court connection that Ramsey describes as “a whole different language.”
“I didn’t want him to retire,” Ramsey said Friday. “He did it anyway.”
When Ramsey received a series of urgent “Call me” text messages from Weddle last Sunday, he didn’t imagine what was happening until Weddle gave him the unlikely news.
While backup safeties Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess could play the majority of the snaps, Weddle will be on the court — and Ramsey is confident his veteran friend can make a difference in keeping the Rams’ Super Bowl dreams alive.
“It was something that I personally needed and really, really wanted — another guy like that in our high school, even if it’s just for the playoffs,” Ramsey said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play with good safeties in my career. I feel like he’s probably the best I’ve played with in my career. … We’ve always been able to be on the same wavelength, we think the same way and have the same vision.
NOTES: WR Van Jefferson is listed as questionable after being restricted to training this week due to a shoulder injury. He’s second on Los Angeles’ list with 802 receiving yards and six touchdowns. … QB Matthew Stafford (toe) and CB Darious Williams (shoulder) have been in full practice all week.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press