As the San Diego Chargers are set to begin the 2013 season in a transitional year with new coaches and personnel, the team is looking toward its veterans to lead the way — Eric Weddle in his sixth season has already embraced that role, and his coaches and teammates have taken notice.
When the Chargers drafted him out of Utah with the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft, Weddle was known as a player adept at using his instincts to be in the right place at the right time and make big plays. He’s since rewarded their trust by becoming the team’s leader and arguably the best safety in the NFL.
Young players like Manti Te’o have said Weddle is instrumental in their development and is the first player to encourage them when they make a play in practice.
“When I actually do something good,” Te’O told Sports Out West after practice on Wednesday. “(Eric Weddle) is there to congratulate me on a good job, so it’s been good.”
At 28 years-old, Weddle is entering the prime of his career, and is poised for another productive season after being a Pro-Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 2011. This year, however, because of the youth surrounding him, he’ll be asked to do more than ever from a leadership standpoint. If he can find a way to rub off on his young counterparts, then the Chargers’ new-look defense might have a shorter learning curve overall.
The coaching staff, specifically first-year head coach Mike McCoy seems to agree with that sentiment.
“He’s a crafty veteran that’s played a lot and has had a great career to this point and time,” said McCoy via Chargers.com.” He is a great guy to learn from. Anytime you can play behind an experienced veteran, you’re crazy to not listen to everything they say or watch everything they do.
The “crafty veteran” cliche is more than just phraseology at this point. Weddle is the epitome of a player with a high football I.Q. as he has outsmarted opponents over a six-year career to to amass 16 interceptions and 28 tackles for loss. He’s shown a knack for making the big play and has added an impressive four defensive touchdowns for his career.
In 2013, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to lead from the front.
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