BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Sean Weatherspoon has endured his share of hard times since coming into the NFL five years ago. He missed all of last season with an Achilles injury. In fact, Weatherspoon’s only played in one full season  since coming into the league.
Weatherspoon’s looking for a fresh start this coming season with the Arizona Cardinals.
“Moving forward, I’m just looking forward to getting a new set of wings. That’s kind of how I look at it,” Weatherspoon said. “I’ve been a bird, but not a part of the Bird Gang. I’m definitely happy to be here and get a new set of wings and rejuvenate my career.”
Weatherspoon has only played seven games in the past two years due to injuries. There were times when he was “down and out,” to use his own words. His teammate Corey Peters, who also signed with the Cardinals, was one of his strongest supporters and got him through the tough times.
“He’s [Peters] a good friend of mine. He’s an awesome player. He’s the voice of reason when I need someone to talk to, so it’s kind of great to have him here because he’s helped me throughout my process last year when I tore my Achilles, and he did it the year before,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s a testament that if you stay strong in your faith and you continue to work at what you need to work at, you’ll be fine.”
Rest assured, Weatherspoon is totally 100-percent after the Achilles injury. He went to Charlotte, N.C., recently, and got a diagnosis from Dr. Robert Anderson. Anderson is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who performed Weatherspoon’s surgery. Anderson told Weatherspoon that he’s “A-1, good to go.”
“We’re just working on gaining some girth in the calf, because over time – it’s been about seven and a half, eight months since the surgery – so we’ve still got a little bit of work to do, but ultimately, I can run, I can do everything that the trainers in Atlanta asked me to do, and I’m ready to come here and do that here,” Weatherspoon said.
Weatherspoon signed a one-year deal with Arizona. He’s well aware of the way the NFL works: you only play seven games in two years and you’re a question mark with your health, you’re not going to get a multi-year deal. Teams are too cautious about throwing huge deals in the direction of injury prone players.
“Oh, I knew it. I knew it, and I was ready for that,” Weatherspoon said. “I knew I’d have to do a one-year deal, but I didn’t care about that. I just wanted a chance to play. A lot of people are saying, ‘He came to Arizona for a few hundred thousand bucks,’ but that’s not what it is. It’s about knowing what you have to do in your heart and knowing what you’re personal legend will be, and that’s what I’m looking to do is establish something here that can be talked about for awhile.”
In Atlanta, Weatherspoon proved that – when healthy – he can be a game changer. He had two 100+ tackle seasons with the Falcons, including a career-high 127-tackle season in 2011.
Weatherspoon feels he brings more to the Cardinals than just his physical presence on the field.
“I think I bring leadership. I bring passion for the game,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m from Southeast Texas, and where I’m from, on Friday night it’s all about the Jasper Bulldogs – nothing else matters. When you go to your playoff game the whole town sends you off, so this is something that’s been embedded in me a long time to be a part of a team and actually give it all that I have.”
“I’m passionate. I try to refrain from using bad words, but I’m going to play my a– off for this organization, for this city and just give it all I’ve got,” Weatherspoon said. “I think if you do that, at the end of the day, you can be satisfied.”
Weatherspoon has a reputation of being a solid guy in the locker room and one to listen to when he speaks. He feels those characteristics will follow him into the Cardinals’ locker room.
“Definitely I think so,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m a guy who’s going to look you in the eye and shoot you straight and I expect you to do the same to me. When it’s time to go, I’m ready to go. When it’s time to have fun, I’m the first guy having fun.”
“Being out of the game for about two years, it kind of puts fun on the back burner a little bit because I’m out to prove to myself that I can be who I am and come out here and be a part of something special.”
The last couple of seasons haven’t been the best ones in Falcons’ history. Last season they went 6-10 in a very weak NFC South division – a division they could’ve won if they beat the Carolina Panthers on the final game of the regular season at home [they lost 34-3]. In 2013, the Falcons went 4-12. Pile that on top of Weatherspoon missing over a year-and-a-half of football, and you can see why Weatherspoon is anxious to get going with a Cardinals team that’s coming off two straight double-digit win seasons and a Wild Card playoff berth in 2014.
“I’m definitely excited about that,” Weatherspoon said. “This team was in the playoffs last year, and I watched that game, and I know what’s going on – I know football. I’m sitting there watching the game and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they’re right there.’ So I felt like what I bring, and what [defensive tackle] Corey [Peters] brings, and what [guard] Mike [Iupati] brings from San Fran [49ers], I feel like we’re putting the pieces together to do something special.”
“We’re just going to work hard and grind. I want to be a part of this group, and I can’t wait to meet my new brothers,” Weatherspoon said.