Based on the way the season began, former Mizzou star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon thought his return to the Atlanta Falcons after an uneventful one-year hiatus with the Arizona Cardinals would be triumphant.
“My first game against Tampa, I graded out awesome,” Weatherspoon said. “Next game, we went to Oakland, I got a 10-piece. Graded out awesome.
“I’m like ‘Man, I feel good.’”
The Falcons played the Saints the next week, and Weatherspoon had another great game. And through four weeks — three starts — he had 27 tackles and started to resemble the versatile, heat-seeking defender he was in Atlanta prior to a two-year stretch where he was limited to only six games due to injuries.
Then, the Falcons played the Carolina Panthers, and Weatherspoon’s season ended abruptly when he broke on the ball and suffered his second Achilles tendon rupture. He’s been through it before, so he says his family and friends were more upset than he was.
“I understand it ain’t all about me,” Weatherspoon said. “It gave me some time to get my head together and enjoy other aspects of my life that I was getting a chance to.”
For instance, Weatherspoon now has two young children — one 22 months old and the other seven months old — and he’s gotten a chance to spend time with them.
“Daddy’s been at home,” Weatherspoon said with a laugh. “That’s been cool.”
Obviously, however, he misses being on the field. And when he was healthy, he thought he did well.
Yet, he’s also taken satisfaction in watching the youngsters at his position, particularly Deion Jones, emerge as solid players, and the Falcons’ defense rise to the challenge of matching the production of their powerful, second-ranked offense.
“That’s been people’s recipe against us — they open up their playbook all the way,” Weatherspoon said. “We get it all. Every route that can beat that Cover 3, we get it. So to see where we are, it’s been amazing.”
Weatherspoon is looking forward to seeing how the defense fares against the New England Patriots, even though he won’t be able to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
“I’m living through these guys,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m going to be out there losing my voice for this one, making sure we go out there and don’t leave any stones unturned.”
Despite the Achilles injury, Weatherspoon, 29, is also looking forward to playing for a long time. He’ll be a free agent this offseason, but wants to return to Atlanta.
“I’m gonna get back on this horse and see what’s up — definitely,” said Weatherspoon, a six-year veteran. “My goal was to always get to 10 (years). And also the main goal is what we’re doing right now, being here. We take care of our business here, it plays a factor in that, as well. I’m hoping we get this ring, but I just love to play, though.
“If I can go out there and still play and be effective, then I’m going to play. Once I see I’m not effective, then I’m going to the house. That’s just what it is.”
Weatherspoon, who remains a ardent follower of Missouri athletics, has also been keeping an eye on the Tigers’ football team. He says he spoke to coach Barry Odom on Wednesday and is optimistic they can improve on their 4-8 record in 2016, Odom’s debut season.
“Man, what gives me hope is knowing the guy that’s running the ship,” Weatherspoon said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for B.O., love his family, love what he’s about.
“His defenses have been great when he was a coordinator, and since he became a head coach, I know last year we took some steps back on defense ... but I look forward to seeing what we’re going to do this year. I know he’s excited about what’s going on, and I know they’re ready to put last year behind him.”