Baltimore Ravens safety, and ex-Charger, Eric Weddle tackles some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby before Sunday’s wild-card round clash against his former team.
Q: What will it be like for you playing chess with former Chargers teammate Philip Rivers?
A: It’s a fun day for me. Honestly, it’s what you live for when you play this game, to go against the best and to be able to do it in the playoffs with such a high stake. It’s gonna bring out the best in both of us. Every play it’s a battle — a battle of wits, a battle of looks in trying to get our teams in the best position possible to be successful on each play.
Q: What is one anecdote that sums up Rivers?
A: One of his finest moments was in 2007 when he got injured in Indianapolis in the second round of the playoffs [a 28-24 win] — got knocked out, his knee. Had surgery on Monday to clean it up, didn’t practice all week, then goes to the AFC Championship Game and plays through a torn ACL, MCL, everything for his teammates. It was just incredible to see that. And then we ended up losing [21-12 at New England], and on Monday he has full surgery for that knee. Not many guys could ever have done that.
Q: Should he be a Hall of Famer?
A: 100 percent.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: I want to be feared as a defensive player, by what I can do, by the opponents not knowing what I do from play to play — whether I’m blitzing, whether I’m covering, whether I’m bailing out, playing run, doesn’t matter. I want them to be on their heels, I want them to react to me. I’m a team-first guy, but when I’m out there, I want to destroy the opponent.
Q: Will Lamar Jackson have playoff jitters?
A: I don’t believe so. No, this kid is cold as ice. Nothing gets to him. He’s very composed, doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. Demands and expects a lot out of himself and the offense. I expect him to rise to the occasion and have his best game yet.
Q: Was your most painful playoff defeat the 2007 AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots?
A: My most was probably the Jets at home, that 13-3 year [2009 season]. I think that was much worse. I think we had a chance to go all the way.
Q: Do you still have a chip on your shoulder from the time USC and UCLA didn’t recruit you?
A: I think the chip is different now. You go through stages in your career, the slights of the college days [Utah], then you proved them wrong, you have a great career and you get in the league, and other guys are drafted in front of you and you’re trying to earn the respect of your teammates and try to earn a starting spot. Now you earn that, now you’re trying to be the best player at your position. … You get to that, and now you gotta stay on top. You’re always changing the chip. And I think at this point, it’s not so much a chip anymore — what drives me is team success and helping the team win. All the naysayers or the people that have doubted me, I think that I’ve proved all them wrong by now.
Q: Who is one quarterback in NFL history you would have liked to intercept?
A: Philip Rivers. I mean, I got Tom Brady, I got Peyton Manning, I got Brett Favre … I missed out on Drew Brees this year. … I got some all-time greats, so I need to add ’ol Phil to the list. That’d be nice.
Q: If you could pick the brain of one defensive back in NFL history, who would it be?
A: Ed Reed. … Because he made plays that were incredible, only he could make — whether it’s instincts, whether it’s film study, with intuition, it’s something that you can’t teach. I have a good relationship with Ed, but never have I sat and just talked ball with him and picked his brain.
Q: What drives you?
A: At this point in my career, it’s a chance at the Super Bowl. I’ve done all the individual things of … try to get to the top at your position and establish yourself as one of the better players in this league. To stay there is even harder, which I think I’ve done all my career. What drives me is just leading, and having a chance at the Super Bowl.
Q: From your Twitter: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
A: It’s totally true. If you’re not willing to put the work in and build yourself physically and mentally, then how are you gonna do that when the game’s on the line, when your best is needed?
Q: “Physical dominance can make you great. Mental dominance is what ultimately makes you unstoppable.”
A: Oh, yeah, I believe that wholeheartedly. Everyone is physically gifted in this league. … But the mental side is what really carries guys to the next level. It really separates the great ones from the good ones. … How you train your mind, how you never take no for an answer, everything that you believe and the way you act mentally, carries more weight than physical attributes. A case in point is myself, I’m not the most physically gifted, but I’m more mentally tough than anybody out there. … A lot of things happen that you can’t really explain, you just do it and you trust yourself. When in doubt, trust your instincts and live with the result, I’ve always believed that.
Q: Describe the status of your beard right now.
A: It’s short. There is no beard right now. I trimmed it up. I cut it, got rid of it. … Can always grow it back, though.
Q: Why did you cut it?
A: I was getting tired of it. I’ve had it for probably six years, but I didn’t trim it up in the offseason. I had it for two years … the upkeep is keeping a magical beard. It’s a lot of work, so, got tired of it.
Q: Describe coach John Harbaugh.
A: Resilient … leader … passionate … genuine. A guy that from the onset had been honest and up-front and believes in us, and really has been his finest moment this year.
Q: Describe defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.
A: Smart … selfless … obviously genuine, friendship, loyal … a guy that works as one with his players and coaches, and it shows.
Q: What is the on-field personality of this Ravens defense?
A: We are tough. We are hard-nose, mentally tough, hit you in the mouth, first play to the last play.
Q: What was it like playing with LaDainian Tomlinson?
Q: Who was your boyhood idol?
A: I was a big Cowboys fan growing up, so Emmitt Smith was my favorite player. When I was playing Pop Warner at 9 years old, they had just won two Super Bowls. … Honestly, my dad [Steven] and my mom [Deborah] are my idols. I looked at sports stars — NBA basketball, football, baseball — I thought they were mythical beings, quite honestly.
Q: Describe your dad.
A: My dad worked construction his entire life — talk about a guy who’s worked for everything he’s gotten. My mom [was] a teacher for 39 years. The thing that I took most from my dad is his work ethic, his love for his kids, and he never missed anything — whether it was my sister’s sports or academics or play or myself, any football games. He was always there supporting us and would do anything to sacrifice to be there for us. Just knowing you had that support and love, that meant the world to me.
Q: How does your victory ice cream sundae ritual unfold?
A: Obviously, we have to win the game. And then on the way home, I’ll stop by the grocery store and I’ll walk through the aisles and I’ll kind of get an idea what kind of toppings and candy and cookies I want to put in my ice cream. It’s always random, what I’m feeling, what I’m going for. Something will catch my eye, and I’ll build the ice cream for the night. … It’s always a fun moment.
Q: What is your golf fantasy?
A: Oh, my gosh. I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve been to the Masters twice, to support my buddy Charley Hoffman. I’ve golfed with Charley and Phil Mickelson for 27 holes more than one afternoon. The only thing would be to play 18 holes with Tiger [Woods] and shoot the crap with him all afternoon. That would be fun.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Abraham Lincoln, William Wallace, Michael Jordan.
Q: Favorite movies?
A: “Braveheart” and “Gladiator.”
Q: Favorite actors?
A: Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Sandra Bullock.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: R. Kelly.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Any dessert (laugh). Steak, chicken, whatever.
Q: Why did you pick Baltimore when you were a free agent?
A: The history, the city, first-class organization — and they wanted me. When you leave a place that didn’t want you anymore, after so many years, it’s nice to be appreciated and be loved, and knowing you fit right in by their culture and by their system. It was pretty easy when it came down to it.
Q: What’s it like playing in a playoff game against a team that let you go?
A: I haven’t even had any second thoughts about them. I’m looking at them just as another team. I only know a few guys on the team, and they’ve moved on, I’ve moved on. I’m happy for their success, especially for the older guys that I played with a number of years, but would love nothing more than to end their season.
Q: How much longer do you want to play?
A: I got one year after this. If they want me back, then I’ll play. If they want to move in a different direction, then mostly hang it up. If I play next year, it’ll be my last.
Q: What is the mindset of your team right now, and what do you like best about it?
A: I love how genuine this team is, how selfless, how we have each other’s back no matter what. And we’re loose, man. We’ve earned the right to be here. We had to play outstanding football the last seven weeks to have a chance. We knew we couldn’t drop two games, we had to go 6-1 or 7-0 to get in the playoffs. I think we’re loose, I think we’re excited for the moment, I think we’ve prepared for this moment for years — for the guys that have been on this team, and through this season, the ups and downs and playing must-win games for a month-and-a-half now. We’re ready for this game and we’re excited for it.
Q: What would you want your legacy to be?
A: Shoot, that he was a guy that put his teammates first, that you could count on him on and off the field, I was genuine, and I worked hard and took every day like it was my last … and he was a great player, and a great person. I think the relationships I’ve built would last a lifetime, and I hope people know that I cherish that much more than how many Pro Bowls I made or how many picks I made.
Q: Could you ever have imagined having this kind of career?
A: No. Not in a million years. If you would have told me 12 years later — six Pro Bowls, five All-Pros — I would have said you’re lying and there’s no chance. But I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I’m at, and you gotta be good at what you do, so I haven’t taken the easy road, but I’ve been blessed and lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of good players, good coaches, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
Q: Do you have a message to Ravens fans?
A: That we love them and appreciate them. They love their football, and we’re gonna try our best to bring home a trophy to ’em.