That was at least two decades ago, long before he grew his signature beard, when the future All-Pro safety was just a pint-sized kid in Alta Loma, California — 45 miles east of Los Angeles — and tackling the couches inside his family’s living room.
Last week, Weddle’s mom shared the photo on a group text message. Weddle then shared it on social media, shortly after he signed a two-year deal worth up to $12.28 million with the Rams.
LOL…. What are the odds????? pic.twitter.com/Mf5xXdQhlX
— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) March 11, 2019
“What are the odds,” the 12-year NFL veteran wrote.
After being released by the Baltimore Ravens, the six-time Pro Bowl selection will play out perhaps the final years of his football career not far from where it started, and for a team poised to make another deep playoff run after falling short against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
“It’s come full circle for me,” Weddle said Tuesday at an introductory news conference.
Before Weddle’s release in Baltimore, the Rams, who expected safety Lamarcus Joyner to test the market as a free agent, were prepared to court Weddle after general manager Les Snead identified the veteran safety as a potential salary-cap casualty (The Ravens saved $7.5 million in their salary cap by releasing him).
“You prepare and be ready to act if something like that occurs,” Snead said.
Several teams expressed interest in Weddle, who is known for his leadership and has 29 career interceptions.
Weddle created an itinerary of teams to visit and slated the Rams for last. The Rams, however, wanted him to stop in L.A. first.
“That kind of changed the dynamic of the teams I was set out to visit from there on out,” Weddle said. “I knew what L.A. brought and how I could fit. So, obviously, your number one, you want to go there first and see if it’ll work out.”
The connection between the Rams and Weddle was practically instantaneous.
Weddle and McVay spoke for “four or five hours” over a two-day span.
“He’s one of those guys that I was really excited about because I know that I’ll get better as a coach, being able to pick his brain,” McVay said.
Weddle went to dinner Thursday night with McVay, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, safeties coach Ejiro Evero, linebackers coach Joe Barry and left tackle Andrew Whitworth at Mastro’s Steakhouse, a few miles from the team facility in Thousand Oaks.
“There was an instant rapport that occurred,” McVay said.
Snead likened Weddle’s addition to Whitworth’s, who in two seasons has been a pillar on the field, in the locker room and in the community and whose veteran leadership is likely to leave a lasting impression on teammates long after he no long plays. Snead said he fielded calls from several agents after he signed Weddle, not to inquire about the roster, but to tell Snead what kind of teammate Weddle was.
“I’ve never had that occur, really,” Snead said.
“No one is going the remember how many picks I made in my career,” Weddle said. “But they’re going to remember if I was a good teammate, if I was a guy they can count on. If a guy is in trouble at 2 a.m. downtown, are you going to be the guy that they call to go pick them up and help them?”
Weddle is likely correct. Long into the future, his stats could be forgotten. But for now, as the Rams attempt to make a repeat Super Bowl appearance, they remain the biggest question.
Weddle joins a secondary that includes All-Pro cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and safety John Johnson III, who led the team last season with four interceptions. Weddle played nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where Barry served as the linebacker coach for four of those seasons, before he signed a four-year deal with the Ravens. In his first two seasons in Baltimore, Weddle intercepted 10 passes — the most by a safety in that span.
But last season, Weddle experienced a significant drop in production. He did not intercept a pass and had only three pass breakups.
McVay, who saw Weddle’s football acumen first-hand last season when the Rams and Ravens held joint preseason practices, expressed no concern.
“When you really look at what he brings to the table, just watching his production from afar, if you know nothing about football, you can just see that this guy is a playmaker,” McVay said. “He’s consistently done that.”
With the Rams, Weddle will be playing a system that he is familiar with — he spent nine seasons in it with the Chargers — save for a few minor changes. And it’s a system he identified at the outset of free agency that he would want to play in.
“That was definitely enticing of knowing the verbiage, knowing how they like to run different coverages, knowing that I played in it,” Weddle said.
Before he arrived in L.A., Weddle told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley that being released was in the back of his mind, but that he thought the Ravens would give him a chance to stay. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity in Baltimore.
But as he turns to his 13th season in the NFL, it seems circumstances have worked out in Weddle’s favor.
“Things happen for a reason,” Weddle said. “To have an opportunity to finish out what I started in an amazing place like this and where this team has been in the last two years it’s been a progression each season for this team. So, next step is to go win the Super Bowl.”