When you’re the new guy, you take things slow.
You feel your way around your new environment to avoid making waves or bad first impressions. That’s even true for a three-time Pro Bowler like Eric Weddle.
But teammate and new partner-in-crime on the backend of the defense, Lardarius Webb, wanted Weddle to feel comfortable in Baltimore right away.
“I told him, ‘We want Eric Weddle. Don’t hold back. Don’t be quiet. We want you,’” Webb said. “‘If you yelled when you were with the Chargers, I want you coming out here yelling. Just be yourself. Grow the beard back, because we want the beard, if* *that’s who you were.’”
The warm welcome worked; the beard (and yelling) is already back.
In fact, everything that embodies vintage Weddle is already showing up: the fun-loving attitude, the world-class work ethic and study habits, the infectious energy, the coverage disguises, the smell of fear he creates in opposing offenses – everything.
Perhaps the transition is going so smoothly, so quickly, because Weddle and the Ravens go together like peanut butter and jelly. Even Harbaugh and Weddle are similarly built with enthusiasm and a hard-working mentality, aiming to get the most out of each day. Each man genuinely loves football.
“In all honesty, it feels like I've been here my whole career,” Weddle said. “It's been a natural, seamless transition. I've been able to fit in, but also imprint what I'm all about and what I bring to the team.”
“For whatever reason, he fits in with the Ravens,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said of Weddle. “He fits in with how we do things around here just perfectly. … I give [General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] all the credit in the world. That was a great signing.”
With such a smooth transition underway, Weddle is already in position to help transform the backend of the Ravens defense.
There has been a merry-go-round of safeties ever since future Hall of Famer Ed Reed left after the 2012 Super Bowl season. The Ravens tried veterans like Will Hill, Darian Stewart and James Ihedigbo, and spent a first-round pick on Matt Elam. Nobody has been able to stick for one reason or another.
Weddle appears to be the leader that Baltimore has been searching for.
“He’s going to be big for this defense – for this team,” Webb said.
Weddle’s high-energy attitude was on display during Thursday’s practice session open to the media.
Before the snap, Weddle was barking out commands to his teammates as he moved all over the field. He’d sit back in space and then suddenly cheat up close to the line of scrimmage. Or, he would be sniffing around the center, and before anyone knew it, he was outside the tackle. On one play, he started out next to the line of scrimmage with Kendrick Lewis staying back, and with a quick signal, the two quickly swapped spots.
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman yelled to his offense, “Do you see Weddle? Watch Weddle! Weddle! Weddle!”
Twice, the offense committed a delay of game penalty while the 10-year veteran orchestrated disguises on defense. Sometimes the offense was so focused on Weddle that it opened things up for the rest of the secondary.
“That's what I am,” Weddle said. “I move around, I disguise. I want the offense to fear me; I don't fear the offense.
“I want the secondary to feel the same way. I want to move around so much that [offenses] don't know what I'm doing. … I’ve always been that way. The [Ravens] defense has come along so well for me that I still play aggressive and still play with my instincts and not think so much because I’ve got the defense down so well. I’m at peace out there. I don’t think, I just play and my guys are playing off me well.”
What Weddle does between and after plays is even noteworthy. After a defensive stop, he exploded with enthusiasm, boisterously cheering, jumping up and down and hitting helmets. Between drives, Weddle never stopped communicating with his teammates or peppering Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt with questions.
That energy is contagious. Even Webb and Lewis seemed to have an extra pep in their step during the usually hot and monotonous May practices. The three safeties seem to genuinely like playing with each other.
“Yeah, it's been amazing,” Weddle said. “Those guys have been professionals from the onset. There have been no egos. … This isn't about me. It's about the team; it's about the secondary playing as one.”
It’s hard to count the ways Weddle helps this Ravens defense. Harbaugh was asked for his single favorite thing about his new safety, but he couldn’t do it.
“It would be things, it would be multiple things,” Harbaugh said. “I just really appreciate his attitude. This guy’s got the kind of attitude that you respect and I think you respond to. He’s got an enthusiasm for the work day. He loves football. He loves every part of the work day. He loves every part of being in here and being a football player. There’s never something that you look at him and he’s not excited to do.
“That is infectious. That’s something that makes us all better, and to me, that’s one of the things that a great leader does and he’s got those qualities.”
Football is back! We are inching our way back to regular-season football with the start of voluntary OTAs Tuesday. The clouds parted and the sun emerged for the occasion.