It was only a virtual meeting, but for a few minutes Eric Weddle was back in his element giving instructions to the Ravens' defense.
The team's offseason training program brought the retired former safety back into the mix when he addressed the defense in a virtual meeting last month.
Weddle loved doing it, and part of his message focused on handling this strange offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His advice was simple but important. Get yourself in peak condition for training camp and know the playbook. There may not be time to catch up.
"You don't want to be the guy this year who shows up out of shape," Weddle said during a telephone interview. "Or you don't know the defense, don't know what you're doing. You immediately lose trust with your teammates. Your responsibility during this time is to be a pro.
"It was great talking to a lot of my old teammates and coaches, as well as a lot of guys I've never seen before. Basically, just shedding some light on my time there and the expectations of what's expected when you play defense in Baltimore. To live up to the great Hall of famers that have played before us. There's a standard and you have a responsibility to live up to it."
During his three seasons with the Ravens (2016-18), Weddle made the Pro Bowl every year and established himself as a respected locker room leader. If you were not at the Under Armour Performance Center at the crack of dawn, you likely missed his arrival to start the day.
That work ethic set Weddle's foundation for success, which is why Head Coach John Harbaugh invited him to address the defense virtually.
Weddle spent nine seasons (2007-15) in San Diego with the Chargers and he played with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 before announcing his retirement. But Weddle still considers himself a Raven and he loves the organization's winning culture. He was not surprised that Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have also addressed the team virtually this offseason.
"To have a guy like Ray or Ed available is invaluable, not only to the young players but to a 10-year veteran," Weddle said. "Anytime I've spoken to Ray or Ed, it's nothing but an amazing experience. Those are the guys who set the standard and you want to live up to it. They can shed plenty of light on what it means to play like a Raven. Everything they say has a lasting impression."
Weddle has taken pleasure in seeing safety Chuck Clark emerge as a key part of Baltimore's defense. A sixth-round pick in 2017, Clark signed a three-year contract extension in February after spending his first two seasons as a backup, with Weddle serving as one of his mentors.
"I don't think I had much to with his success," Weddle said. "I did enjoy seeing him succeed. I want to see every guy get to that point, earn his role and flourish when he gets his opportunity. He was a consummate pro the whole time I was there. He wasn't like most rookies. He sat there quiet. When he wanted to know something, he asked you. There's a reason why he was successful because he did it the right way and he worked hard."
Weddle said he would consider returning to the Ravens as a scout or coach in the future if the opportunity arose. However, he plans to spend next season enjoying time with his wife, Chanel, and their four children. It might be hard watching from the couch, but he expects the Ravens to be a Super Bowl contender for years to come.
Last November, Weddle was on the losing side when Baltimore dominated the Rams, 45-6, and Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes. Weddle never reached the Super Bowl as a player, but he expects the Ravens to get there soon.
"With Lamar back there, anything's possible," Weddle said. "I love the way he has attacked the process, the way he looks at his teammates. How he leads is second to none. They always have a shot with him at quarterback and the guys they've surrounded him with. As long as Lamar can stay healthy and continues to get better, I think the window for them is open for as long as Lamar's the quarterback."