Even if it’s only for one more year.
Still, despite the uncertainty regarding his future as a Charger after this season, this year is different for Weddle.
With the likes of Jarret Johnson, Dwight Freeney, even Takeo Spikes, now gone, Weddle is now, officially, the commanding officer of the defense not only because he’s an All-Pro and is entering his ninth season in San Diego, but also because he’s the longest tenured NFL player.
Weddle assuming the “oldest” and most experienced role isn’t a big deal. We know what he brings to the table. We know this could be his last season as a Charger. The story, here, is that of his new lieutenant.
Flowers, who signed a one-year deal with the Chargers prior to last season, re-upped with San Diego for four more years this past offseason. But, as the Chargers continue transitioning from the old guard to a new wave of core players—particularly on defense with Corey Liuget, Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu, Manti Te’o, and Jason Verrett, among others—Flowers’ pedigree as an eight-year veteran, and Pro Bowler is crucial.
Especially if Weddle is gone after this year.
“It’s the business,” Flowers said when asked of Weddle’s situation. “It’s tough because he’s such a good player and what he brings to this team, not even just athletically, he’s just so smart. He gets everybody lined up. He actually tells you what to look for before the play. You don’t get a lot of guys like that. But, me being an older guy, you understand the business. You understand how things go.”
Flowers understands what that could mean for his role on defense.
If Weddle does not return, Flowers will become the Chargers longest tenured NFL player on defense (sure, the Chargers could eventually sign or trade for someone with more experience, but its unlikely.)
The point is, this is an important year for Flowers as he takes on a more vocal leadership role. He knows it, and so do his younger teammates.
“They let me know every day,” Flowers joked. “They call me the old man. I take it as a compliment. I’ve played a lot of games, seen a lot of things, so I just try to be that voice and let the young guys know what to expect, how to push through camp. It’s going to do nothing but make us better in December. Just little things like that. Just trying to do what I’m supposed to do.”
This year’s Chargers defense will look much like last year’s unit did, just with a few younger players taking on larger roles.
The only real change could be at strong safety, and that’s if Jimmy Wilson wins the job outright over Jahleel Addae. Either way, Addae is entering his third year in San Diego, and will play in some capacity similar to his first two seasons.
That said, now is the time for the Chargers defense to take the next step in becoming great. But, as Flowers knows, talk is cheap until you prove it, and that’s something he’s instilling in his young teammates.
“Everybody in the preseason feels like they have the best defense since this and that, but when the season comes, that’s when you got to go make it happen,” Flowers said. “That’s what we preparing for now. Just keep our head down. Keep playing and at the end of the season, see where we’re at.”
If Weddle’s gone, we know where you’ll be, Lieutenant.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)