Two-time All-Pro safety Eric Weddle of the Rams imparts some knowledge on third-year cornerback Dominique Hatfield.
IRVINE, Calif. — There’s a big decision on the horizon, and although training camp is in full swing, it has nothing to do with Los Angeles Rams football.
It’s Silver Weddle’s eighth birthday, and for the first time since she was teeny-tiny, Dad is with her — on her actual birthday — to celebrate.
“I don’t know yet!” she says, when her father, Rams safety Eric Weddle, asks where she wants to eat for dinner.
The entire Weddle family — Eric’s wife, Chanel, and kids, Brooklyn, 11, Gaige, 10, Silver, 8, and Kamri, 5 — have made the 90-minute drive from their home in Poway, California, 20 miles northeast of San Diego, to watch Dad’s practice at UC Irvine and celebrate.
All four of Weddle’s children are wearing Rams attire, and aside from a post-practice introduction to Los Angeles coach Sean McVay, there’s no sign that they’re a new addition to the team.
“It feels like I’ve been here my whole career,” Weddle says.
Weddle, 34, played nine seasons — and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro — for the San Diego Chargers before an acrimonious ending that resulted in him signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
He made three Pro Bowl appearances in three seasons with Baltimore, even as his production sharply declined in 2018. The Ravens released Weddle before the final season of his four-year contract.
Three days later, he signed with the Rams.
“I had tons of opportunities to go other places for a lot more money,” says Weddle, who is playing on a two-year, $10.5 million deal. “But it’s just not a reality at this point of my career. It’s a great opportunity to come to an amazing organization, an established team with an amazing coach, go out and put my stamp on things and try to help lead this team to a championship.”
Weddle replaces safety Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with the Oakland Raiders in free agency. Weddle joins a secondary that includes veteran Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, rising star John Johnson III and rookie Taylor Rapp.
“He’s really a coach on the field,” Peters says of Weddle. “The way that he’s disguising and giving you opportunities to make plays just based off his disguise, it’s amazing to have him here.”
Despite this being Weddle’s first season playing in Wade Phillips’ scheme, he has been designated as the signal-caller of the defense.
Phillips calls him a “personality,” and given the 72-year-old defensive coordinator’s own quirks, it seems fitting.
“You can tell by looking at him or talking to him,” Phillips says.
Weddle, who has 29 career interceptions, sports a trademark beard and fashions his hair in a mini-mohawk. But appearance and outgoing personality aside, it’s his football savvy that is making the biggest impact.
“He’s a really smart guy, smarter than I am, I know,” Phillips says. “He anticipates so much and helps other players so much by helping them anticipate by saying, ‘Hey watch for this, do this, this might be coming.'”
Weddle also is comfortable making suggestions to Phillips, even as the legendary coach enters his 42nd season in the NFL.
“He will come to us about things and say, ‘Why don’t we do this or that?'” Phillips says. “And we say, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ That’s the way he is; he’s thinking football all the time, and he’s got a real sharp mind, football IQ.”
Perhaps no player has benefited more from Weddle’s arrival than fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff, who is in search of any advantage to improve on his 32-touchdown performance from last season.
Weddle and Goff talk in the hallways, between series and even between plays.
“[I’m] asking him, ‘What did he see?’ And there will be situations where he’ll ask me, ‘What did you see?’ and, ‘How did you know we were coming there? How did you see that?'” Goff says. “The dialogue that I can have with him is so huge for my development.”
Weddle’s decision to sign with the Rams not only delivers him to a Super Bowl contender but returns him to his Southern California roots. He grew up Alta Loma, 45 miles east of Los Angeles. And he built his family’s dream home in northeastern San Diego.
On the second day of training camp, Weddle’s son, Gaige, joins him on the sideline during practice, something that wasn’t a possibility when he went through camp with the Ravens because his family typically waited to move East until the start of the school year.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Weddle says. “I asked [McVay] out of respect, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you can bring your son anywhere.’ It’s just special. I don’t know how many more years I’ve got left, and he’s old enough — all my kids are old enough — to understand and appreciate what Dad does, and then to have him around and all the guys are so nice to him and he just fits right in.”
As his oldest daughter, Brooklyn, enters middle school, Weddle and his wife had planned on spending the season on separate coasts. Weddle would return to Baltimore, and Chanel would remain in San Diego so the kids would no longer have to split their time.
But now Weddle is living near the Rams’ training facility in Thousand Oaks and is able to make the occasional 160-mile drive home.
It’s a luxury that wouldn’t have been possible if the Ravens had not released him and is considered an added bonus to joining a team that’s ready for a deep playoff run.
Weddle knows the plan isn’t sustainable for the long term. But for now, it will work.
“I’m giving it all I’ve got this year. Who knows about the next year?” Weddle says. “I’ve got a lot of years on these legs, so I’m just taking it one day at a time.”