THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Besides occasional full-court, five-on-five pickup basketball games, one of the other things keeping Eric Weddlebusy in retirement was coaching his son's 12U football team.
Weddle said he always talks to his son about owning his decisions, playing with no regrets, and living life with no regrets. So when Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and head coach Sean McVay reached out about coming out of retirement and rejoining the team he last played for prior to retiring, it didn't take long for the defensive back to say yes and want to help them make a playoff run.
"I just kept coming back to, I would regret it if I didn't come and take this chance to try to help out the guys that I love, a coach that I love, and try to help this team out, whatever role that is – and how can I look, my team or my kids or anyone for that matter if I didn't follow through on what I preach?" Weddle said during a video conference Wednesday. "So it didn't take much persuading, per se, it was kind of just going through the avenues with all the coaches and reaching out to some players, (because) I didn't want to come in and ruffle any feathers or be someone (who) gets in the way, right? And once all that was was on the same page, man, it was a no brainer in my mind."
Weddle was signed to the practice squad Tuesday and arrived in Thousand Oaks very early Wednesday morning. He participated in the Rams' walkthrough on Thursday, with reunions with familiar faces in between.
His return to Los Angeles almost two years after his retirement comes as the Rams deal with a season-ending ankle injury sustained by safety and defensive signal-caller Jordan Fuller and as safety Taylor Rapp navigates concussion protocol. However, Weddle expressed total confidence in being ready to contribute, between those basketball games and training like he was going to play over the last couple of years, even though he hadn't been playing. Additionally, in that walkthrough, he said he didn't miss a single check or call – displaying the familiarity that made him an appealing addition to the defense.
"I know how much time and effort goes into a season, but I'm close enough to where I can help out for one game, for all the marbles, for 10-15-20 snaps," Weddle said. "I can do that. If I didn't feel like I could go out there and be what I expect to be, then I wouldn't be sitting here right now."
Morris said after Fuller was sidelined for the playoffs, he and safeties coach Ejiro Evero began discussing veteran presences they could add this time of year. Weddle's name had come up once before, when the Rams were dealing with personnel uncertainty in wake of their COVID-19 outbreak in December. They discussed it, but they did not call him at that time.
"Then I was able to get permission from Sean to actually give him a call and just test some interest," Morris said during a video conference Thursday. "You know me, I just did it in a playful way, asked him was he fat? He said, 'I'll never be fat.' I know he consistently works out, keeps himself in good shape. His brain is like no other, it's like a coach."
To be completely certain he would not "ruffle any feathers," Weddle reached out to defensive back Jalen Ramsey to make sure he was on board.
While the two of them only played half of a season together, they formed a strong connection on a personal and playing level and stayed in contact even while Weddle was retired – including the entire 2021 season, when Weddle would get on Ramsey if he felt like Ramsey "let some things slip" after watching a game.
"I didn't have to do any really persuading," Weddle said. "He, said 'Get your butt out here. That would be the best Christmas gift ever.' So when he said that, and we kind of talked things through, that made me – it made me, obviously, humbly saying the relationship we have, and just to hear him say that, made me more confident to come back and help out."
Ramsey said it's been "fun" having Weddle back, and that return has been influential for him as well. Ramsey called Weddle the best safety he's ever played with in his career, and that the two of them were constantly communicating and always on the same page during the short amount of time they initially played together.
"That was something that I personally felt like I needed, and super, really, really wanted, another guy like that in our secondary," Ramsey said. "Even if it's just for the playoffs, for this stretch we want to go on. I was super excited when he called me and told me it was a possibility and that he was thinking about it."
Weddle had just picked his son from basketball when he was talking with McVay about the next steps to getting him up to Thousand Oaks.
Once he and his wife broke the news to their children, the children couldn't contain their excitement.
"When we basically sat everyone down, (my son) ran and got his Rams stuff on and was getting all emotional," Weddle said. "My son's like an emotional – he's got a big heart. And he was just so happy for me. Chanel and I just tried to teach our kids, right, opportunities come, and it's whether you make the most of them or not, it's in everyday life, right? No matter what you're doing, an opportunity comes, are you ready for it? And do you make the most of it? And for me, it was a perfect time to be an example to my kids that, hey, this opportunity came and I'm gonna go make the most of it."