OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Eric Weddle insists his acrimonious split with the Chargers happened too long ago to be relevant and contends his motivation to win on Saturday night is solely about helping Baltimore enhance its playoff position.
“Everything is right there for us,” Weddle said Wednesday. “That’s the exciting part, not so much going up against my old team.”
Weddle talks a good game, but it appears as if the Pro Bowl free safety is hiding his true feelings in much the same way the Ravens’ top-ranked defense disguises a blitz. Truth is, Weddle couldn’t wait to get out of San Diego after a 2015 season in which the Chargers fined him $10,000 for watching his daughter perform at halftime of a game; kept him on the sideline with an injury he insisted was not serious; and barred him from flying with the team for the season finale.
This will be the first time since Weddle left for Baltimore that he will face his former team. Regardless of his win-one-for-the-team attitude, those around him know how much this game means to him.
“Doesn’t everybody want to flex on their ex? There you have it,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Sour note, sour ending, something to prove.”
Strong safety Tony Jefferson said, “Eric has been watching the Chargers on film since OTAs. I’ve caught him a few times in meetings looking at (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers and what they do. It’s definitely a big game for him.”
Weddle was selected to three Pro Bowls in San Diego and has made the Pro Bowl three times in three years with the Ravens. Although he has knocked away only three passes this season and does not have an interception, his savvy and leadership make the 33-year-old one of the best in the NFL as the last line of defense.
“He’s the quarterback of the back end,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said.
Weddle remains close friends with Rivers, his former teammate. Back in the day, the two would compare notes after practice in an effort to improve both the offense and defense.
They continue to communicate, and kept the banter going this week.
“I congratulated him on the Pro Bowl and told him how great they look on film,” Weddle said. “It’s been good talk. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever been around and I look up to him in a lot of ways. I’m grateful that I can say he’s one of my friends, one of my brothers.”
Rivers feels much the same way.
“He was a great teammate, great player and great friend,” Rivers said this week. “Our boys played ball together, so there was obviously a lot of great years together. He and I still keep in touch throughout the year.”
They’ll be matching wits on Saturday night in a big game for both teams. Baltimore (8-6) remains in contention for the AFC North title and a wild-card spot, while the Chargers (11-3) are in the running to finish with the best record in the AFC, which comes with home=field advantage up to the Super Bowl.
“What better way than to go across the country and play one of the best teams — if not the best — right now in the league to earn our way into the playoffs,” Weddle said. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
On the day he signed with the Ravens, Weddle had this to say about his final weeks with the Chargers: “It was hard to deal with every day, going to work at 4:30 in the morning knowing that the organization doesn’t want you after this year.”
Now, he claims, there are no residual hard feelings.
“The past is in the past. I have no discomfort, hatred, whatever,” Weddle said. “That was almost four years ago. They’ve moved. They’re basically a different team. I wish them well and I’m excited to go lead my team to get the win.”
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