LOS ANGELES — If Eric Weddle has taught us anything recently, it’s keep your phone close. Retired or not, you never know who might call.
More than content to live the life of stay-at-home dad, Weddle had his routine down to a science. Work out, shuttle kids around — shuttle that same lot around some more, before coaching a youth football team at night. Rinse, cycle, repeat. It was the perfect post-retirement plan for a guy ready to make up for lost time, and with those he loved the most.
One of the most successful Utes players in program history, Weddle’s game certainly translated to the next level. Nine seasons with the Chargers — three Pro Bowls. Three seasons with the Ravens — three more Pro Bowls. If you do the math, that’s a total of six Pro-Bowls in 11 seasons.
He would have one last hurrah with the Los Angeles Rams before calling it quits in 2019. All the while, having no idea which direction the franchise would go.
Turns out, the Rams didn’t skip a beat, earning the NFCs three-seed going into the 2021 postseason. Led by the likes of Aaron Donald, the Los Angeles defense was already stout; but just like with any team, injuries can creep up in any number of spaces, and for them it was in their defensive backfield at the worst possible time.
Needing a safety and needing one fast, where do you go? The practice squad? Perhaps. But not when a proven veteran that works out religiously and with plenty of game still left in the tank happens to be sitting at home just 120 miles south of Rams headquarters in San Diego.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“You don’t recognize my voice?”
“Coach Morris?! How are you? Don’t you have a playoff game to prep for?"
“Funny you should ask, but that’s actually why I’m calling. Fuller and Rapp are out. We need you.”
“Need me? Need me to what? Keep the Gatorade tank full?"
“Haha. Have you already forgotten how to play football? Can you make it by this afternoon? It’s go-time.”
I made that up. Obviously I wasn’t privy to the unsuspecting call, but I can see the conversation going something like that.
Utes fans know Weddle better than anyone. A guy respected just as much for his work ethic, jovial banter and can-do attitude than he is for knocking receivers to the ground. It didn’t take Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris long to get a “hell yes.”
Weddle was all in.
But could he find it again? And on such short notice? It’s one thing to stay in shape on the home treadmill, but to jump right back into playoff football is a different story entirely.
As one might expect, he played sparingly in a Wild Card win over Arizona, taking 19 snaps. But the 37-year old didn’t take long to get his cleats wet. The veteran playing 61 snaps and producing 4 tackles the very next week against Tampa Bay.
Against San Francisco a week late, with the conference crown on the line, Weddle took another steep leap in the right direction. All of a sudden Weddle was not only starting at free safety, but leading the club in tackles.
The story at this point is only three quarters complete — the grand finale set for a couple Sundays from now, in… wait for it… that’s right, Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles — home of the Rams when the Bengals come to town for Super Bowl LVI.
Could it be a tale fit with a Hollywood ending? Time will tell, but all the components are there. The only thing missing being a ring.
The young pup, Joe Burrow is one of the best in the business, but he better keep an eye out for the guy 12 years his elder. Once a dead reality, that hope for an elusive Super Bowl, not to mention that trip to Disneyland, has all of a sudden become highly probable.
It’s Weddle’s moment. One he will soon write all by himself.