Stephen Weatherly admits he’s gotten complacent in Carolina, won’t let that happen again
Stephen Weatherly had finally succeeded. At the start of his fifth season in the NFL, he signed a two-year, $ 12.5 million free agent contract to become a full-time starting defensive for the Carolina Panthers. It was supposed to be the next big step in a footballing career that had required a lot of persistence.
Leaving Atlanta High School in 2012, Weatherly was a weak three-star rookie, ranked among the nation’s top 800 players by the 247 Sports composite score. He had a lot of Power 5 deals, but none of the big power schools. Weatherly chose to attend Vanderbilt, where he did a red shirt as a rookie for a team that had won two conference games the year before. He wasn’t exactly on an obvious path to the NFL.
But Weatherly built a solid three-year career at Vandy, registering 11.5 sacks, 26 total tackles for the loss and three forced fumbles. Decent numbers, although nothing screams the future NFL starter. The Vikings took a chance on his length and advantage by selecting Weatherly in the seventh round, 227th overall, in the 2016 draft.
He failed to make the 53-man roster as a rookie, but Weatherly was able to stay on the practice squad. He became a special teams contributor in his second season, but had seen fewer than 100 defensive shots in two years in the league. Then came 2018, when Weatherly was hired in a starting role in Week 3 while Everson Griffen was absent from the squad. He racked up 19 presses and three sacks over the next seven games and never looked back, becoming a key rotating pass carrier for the remainder of this season and all of 2019.
But now, in 2020, Weatherly was finally being paid a lot of money to be a key part of the Panthers’ defense. He was thrilled to have landed the contract and was thrilled to make his mark on a new team. However, as Weatherly admitted on Monday, he turned down the gas a bit, and it cost him.
“One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t have to be so safe,” Weatherly said. “I have to keep reaching out and moving forward. I openly admit that my time in Carolina, I was happy with the deal I signed and a little complacency set in and that can’t happen. It’s definitely one more thing that I’m bringing back (to Minnesota). That fight, that squeak. Never let complacency set in again, especially when it comes to something like the soccer. ”
Weatherly had a disappointing season with the Panthers, registering just 12 presses and zero sacks in nine starts to open the year. Then, just as he said he was starting to put it all together, he suffered a finger injury that cost him the rest of the year. Weatherly was posted by Carolina this offseason and has been signed a one-year, $ 2.5 million contract by the Vikings Last week.
“It took me a while to get into a rhythm, to really learn how I was going to play, how I was going to fit into this defense,” Weatherly said. “By the time I learned how I was going to fit in, I ended up having this end-of-season finger surgery, so it was very unfortunate.
It wasn’t the season he was hoping for, but Weatherly said he had learned some valuable lessons with the Panthers. He’s “super excited” to be back in Minnesota and working with defensive line coach and defensive co-coordinator Andre Patterson.
“Just knowing the man he is, the coach he is and what he was able to do with my career from 2016 until I left, I was super excited to take over his tutelage and take another step forward and keep moving forward, ”Weatherly said. “More hindsight.”
Weatherly, who said her finger is okay, could have a chance to come forward and compete for a starting spot against Danielle Hunter. The Vikings have high hopes for sophomore DJ Wonnum and will likely re-sign restricted free agent Ifeadi Odenigbo and add another DE or two via free agency or draft. But regardless of Weatherly’s role, his knowledge of the defensive scheme – combined with what he learned in Carolina – should help him make an impact in 2021.
Even though his year away from Minnesota did not go as planned, Weatherly gained valuable perspective. He knows he has to trust what got him here and keep pushing to get better.
“Either way, I have to strive and reach for the next step and if I slip or fail, I failed because I was reaching greatness.”
The most interesting man in football
Weatherly has been doubled “The most interesting man in the NFL.” He can play nine different instruments and has a bunch of hobbies (baking, photography, puzzles, etc.) that aren’t usually associated with professional athletes. He joined a virtual chess club last year in Charlotte that met every Thursday.
And after stepping into blown glass when he was in Minnesota, Weatherly got the chance to appear as a guest judge on the Netflix competitive show “Blown Away.”
“I looked at it like I was watching a movie,” Weatherly said of her performance on the show (Season 2, Episode 7). “I rewound it a few times, watched it muted to see my manners and stuff like that. I never really broke down, like not in football, but I did it for that. C was pretty dope. The experience was amazing. I watched it probably 30 times. ”