FLOWERY BRANCH – Arizona linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who's getting ready to play in his second NFC championship game, signed a one-year contract worth $3.85 million last March and is set to become an unrestricted free agent again in March.
A rash of injuries over the past three seasons have hurt his market value. Another hamstring injury slowed him at the beginning of the 2015 season.
The Cardinals started to use him more late in the season and he played 18 snaps against Green Bay in the playoffs.
If the Falcons offered, Weatherspoon would consider coming back.
“I’m fine out here in Arizona,” Weatherspoon said via phone after practice on Thursday. “We love it. It’s awesome. The training is great. Second to none. Obviously, a part of my heart is in Atlanta, but my heart really belongs to the game and where ever we go, that’s just where it’s going to be.”
The Falcons offered Weatherspoon an incentive-laden and performance-based deal, while the Cardinals guaranteed $1.25 million of his deal.
The medical staff would have to believe that Weatherspoon, who has only played 16 games once (2011), is over his rash of injuries. Weatherspoon was a durable college player at Missouri, playing 41 consecutive games.
The media missed the always affable Weatherspoon last season. Win, lose or draw, he was there to take questions. He was never one to hide or dodge the media when things didn’t go so well.
He had a lot to say during our little chat, which was mostly about Sunday’s NFC championship game:
ON WHAT HE TOLD THE CARDINALS ABOUT CAM NEWTON AND THE PANTHERS: “A lot of the things that I talked about with those guys is that the Panthers, they try to come out and … they think they can just come out and do what they do. They don’t even count the box to see where you’re light at. They just kind of run the ball. That’s just what they do: power running game. They really believe they can go in and run it on anybody.
“I just told the guys that if we stop the run, we’ll put Cam in situations where a lot of quarterbacks are going to struggle sometimes. If we can win first down and put them…win first and second and put them in third and six-plus, it’s going to better for us. We have to make sure that we knock that run game out so that we can make Cam throw the ball and make him beat us with his arm. Not to say that he’s not improved in that area, because he has, but we like our chances of him throwing the ball as oppose to them having 28 (Jonathan Stewart) running all around us and having Cam run as well, that just makes it tough.”
ON GETTING MORE PLAYING TIME: “It’s been good. I get a chance to get some pressures and also play some coverage on some backs and stuff like that. The quarterbacks haven’t challenged me too much. I’ve just been hanging out and making sure that I erase my guy and do whatever I can to help us win.”
ON SUFFERING A HAMSTRING INJURY ON THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP: “It was tough. It just put me behind. I wanted to go out in camp and have some fun. When I got here in OTAs, things were going well and my body was feeling good. I’m having fun though. It’s been a good time. . . .I played 11 snaps in the opener against New Orleans. Since the Cincinnati game, I really started to play a little bit more.”
ON WHAT’S IT LIKE PLAYING FOR BRUCE ARIANS: “He’s cool. No, B.S. at all. Straight forward. He kind of lets you know what’s going on. I kind of dig that about him. I was inactive for one game this season and I went up to talk to him. He talked to me just like a man. It was a numbers game and I was going to be down. He let me know that I shouldn’t get discouraged and that I
needed to keep grinding. My role ended up actually growing a little bit after that. He’s a guy that comes in the meeting room and lets you know what’s going on. The whole team knows how we are going about stuff and I can just dig that.
“It’s a little bit more laid back than what I was used to being with (former Falcons coach Mike Smith) Smitty. Everything was really, really detailed there …. B.A. has been a first class guy. We all respect him and we know what it’s about. It’s about coming to work and doing it the right way. He’s going to hold you accountable.”
ON MAKING IT BACK TO THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: “The only thing that is different is that I understand what this moment is completely about. I was a young player, playing in the NFC championship game. I understand now. Tony (Gonzalez) was in like his 17th year and hadn’t even been there before. I still couldn’t wrap my head around that. But now, it took me three years just to get back to this point. A lot of people don’t get a chance to play in the championship game twice. You just can’t take it for granted. You don’t want this moment to slip by. That’s my main focus, doing whatever I can to make sure that we capture this moment instead of the opposite.”
ON IF HE GETS MAD AT NEWTON FOR CELEBRATION DANCES: “Not at all. If you stop him, you don’t have deal with all of that. There’s nothing wrong with having fun out there if you ask me. If you love what you’re doing and you’re definitely having some fun? I kind of dig it. When I’m making big plays I like to have me some fun, too. So, I can’t knock it. But the thing is, if you don’t want to see that, just prepare and be ready to go.”
ON KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH THE FALCONS: “Definitely, I was talking to Willie Moore last night, him and Phil Wheel (Philip Wheeler). I know Philip, too. I know he just got there, but I stay in touch with a lot of the guys. Also, I’ve been in touch with Robert McClain. He playing for Carolina. We were neighbors in Atlanta. We were just talking about our times in Atlanta and being back in the championship game. …I sent (Matt Ryan) a message to finish strong and look what they did. There are no hard feelings. Those are all great guys there. I was proud of what they did this year having a first-year head coach and finishing .500. I think they could have did better. It’s awesome to see some positive things.
ON NEXT YEAR: “I told my agent, we have to finish this thing out and then we’ll see. I’m not opposed to anything. If I have a chance to come back here and it’s a good situation, I would do. If I had a chance to comeback to Atlanta and the situation was right, you just never know. You can’t ....in this business…it’s not promised. I just have got to finish and try to put something on tape to where somebody will give me an opportunity to come and compete wherever.”
FALCONS END OF SEASON STORIES