Eric Weddle retired from the NFL in 2019. While he enjoyed the time away from football, he never lost his love for the game. Now, the 37-year-old defensive back will be suiting up for the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2022 Super Bowl.
Returning to the gridiron after a two-year layoff is no easy feat, especially during the NFL playoffs. However, Weddle used one of his favorite pastimes to stay in prime shape in case some team called his number.
Eric Weddle was playing pickup basketball before signing with the Rams
Eric Weddle spent the final season of his NFL career with the LA Rams. Head coach Sean McVay and company shocked many people by bringing the six-time Pro Bowl selection out of retirement.
LA thrust Weddle into the fire, but he hasn’t shown much sign of rust during the playoff run. The Fontana, California native made sure he stayed in shape even though he was no longer playing football for a living.
According to NBC San Diego, Weddle regularly played pickup basketball during his retirement. The Rams safety has a full-length basketball court outside his home and often hosts a group of his friends to play against one another.
“I played five on five once or twice a week,” said Weddle. “I love basketball.”
As Weddle’s friends tell it, the Rams defensive back routinely gives them a run for their money.
“He was out here killing us,” said Grant Sawyer. Brett Durham added that playing football professionally served Eric Weddle well on the basketball court. “There’s a reason he’s a paid professional athlete,” Durham said. “There’s a big difference between him out here and the rest of us.”
Surely, Weddle wasn’t expecting to be playing football during the 2021 season. Now he gets to compete for the Lombardi Trophy.
The retired safety filled a pressing need for LA
The LA Rams were in a tough spot at the end of the regular season. The defense had stayed healthy for much of the 2021 season, but the injury bug bit at the worst possible time.
LA’s starting safeties, Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller, suffered injuries in the Week 18 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Rapp has been in concussion protocol since the season finale. The Washington product has yet to play in the playoffs, but he has returned to practice, per NFL.com. However, Fuller’s ankle injury was season-ending. The loss of the second-year defensive back was massive. Fuller was a captain and the Rams’ defensive signal-caller. The former Ohio State standout also led the team in tackles during the regular season.
With a huge void left in the defensive backfield, general manager Les Snead turned to a familiar face — Eric Weddle.
The injuries were piling up, so LA became desperate. Fortunately, the retired safety was willing to lend a helping hand.
The Rams eased the veteran back into things, but his role has increased throughout the postseason. In three playoff games, Weddle has recorded 13 tackles and one tackle for loss. He’s no longer a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he performed well enough to help LA punch a Super Bowl ticket.
Why Weddle deserves this Super Bowl opportunity
Before retiring in 2019, Eric Weddle played 13 seasons in the NFL. The Utah product spent his first nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, the next three with the Baltimore Ravens, and ended his career with a brief stint with the Rams.
Super Bowl 56 will be Weddle’s first Super Bowl appearance, and the path wasn’t the easiest.
After giving his blood, sweat, and tears to the Chargers organization, Weddle felt undervalued by the front office. He racked up three Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections during his tenure in San Diego. He was one of the most consistent safeties in the NFL. Still, the Chargers viewed him as dispensable.
Weddle recently recalled words of encouragement he received from Kobe Bryant after the safety left in free agency.
“Make them pay in the worst way possible,” Bryant told Weddle.
He has an opportunity to do just that by helping the Rams cash in on a Super Bowl victory inside SoFi Stadium, the same building where the Chargers play.
There’s no way Eric Weddle envisioned his career playing out this way, but he’s earned the right to enjoy this moment. Those pickup basketball games have certainly paid huge dividends.