Eric Weddle's reunion with Chargers: No grudges but never forget

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Eric Weddle will soon come face to face with the Los Angeles Chargers for the first time since 2015, when the sides endured a divorce so painful that the Pro Bowl safety once declared the team was "dead" to him.

The Chargers have since relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles. Weddle, who is finishing his third season with the Baltimore Ravens, says he has moved on as well.

"When I retire, am I going to walk through the L.A. Chargers practice facility and say hi to everyone? Probably not," Weddle told ESPN. "I definitely will never forget what happened and what they said and did to me and my family. But I’m not going to hold any grudges."

On Saturday, Weddle and the Ravens will play at the Chargers in a showdown that carries significant playoff ramifications. Baltimore (8-6) is looking to remain in the playoff hunt, and Los Angeles (11-3) is fighting for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Though Weddle prefers not to rehash his rocky exit from the Chargers, this reunion provides another layer of drama. Departures don't get much uglier than the one Weddle had.

Weddle went from being a first team All-Pro to being fined $10,000 by the Chargers for staying on the field to watch his daughter perform at a halftime show. He went from being a team captain to not having a seat on the team jet. He went from being the face of the franchise -- or more specifically, the beard of the franchise -- to not even getting a chance to remain with the Chargers.

The realization that he was no longer wanted came a day after the 2015 season ended, when then-coach Mike McCoy saw Weddle at the Chargers' facility and asked him which team he was going to play for the next season.

"I’ve kind of moved forward and not really held onto a lot of that stuff that I did early on for a lot of reasons," Weddle said. "You have to move on and be a better self. I didn’t play for that coach. I know a few of the players that I was teammates with. That’s when they were the San Diego Chargers, not the L.A. Chargers. I look at them as a different team."

Weddle, 33, has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons in Baltimore. With Weddle taking over the defensive calls this season, the Ravens' defense has allowed the NFL's fewest points (18.1) and yards (290.2) per game.

He insists he hasn't had this game against the Chargers circled. His teammates believe otherwise.

"He’s been watching the Chargers on film since OTAs [in May]," Ravens safety Tony Jefferson said. "I caught him a few times looking at Philip Rivers and what they do."

On different sides

Weddle and Rivers used to sit next to each other on buses and planes. They've played golf and cards against each other. Their sons even played on the same flag football team.

Saturday will represent the first time that Weddle and Rivers will line up across from the other in a football game that counts.

"He knows that I know that he knows, you know what I mean?" Rivers said. "And vice versa. Different things. I mean, he and I used to always talk about things, ‘I saw you do this’ or ‘I saw you tell him something.’ So he knows. You almost know too much, and you almost paralyze yourself: 'I thought he was doing this, and it looks like he's doing that.'"

Rivers is an NFL MVP candidate this season, throwing for 3,951 yards and 31 touchdowns. Weddle doesn't have an interception this season, but his leadership and deception in the secondary are big reasons why only two quarterbacks have thrown for over 275 yards against Baltimore.

“It will be a nice chess match between he and Phil," Chargers safety Adrian Phillips said. "Those football minds right there are freaking crazy. Seeing it firsthand in practice every day was amazing. So now actually seeing it with Weddle running a different defense and in game mode, it’s going to be interesting to see.”

Legacy with Chargers

Weddle wishes the Chargers well, especially those he used to play alongside in San Diego. Some of his former teammates believe their success can be traced back to him.

Phillips, an undrafted rookie who signed with the Chargers in 2014, credited Weddle with teaching him how to study film and prepare for game days during his time with the Bolts.

"He helped me a whole lot," Philips said. "Watching film at the collegiate level and watching it at the NFL level is totally different; there’s different things you have to look at and different keys. He gave me a different level of understanding, and he’s one of the reasons that I was able to elevate my game to the next level. He took me under his wing, and it just took off from there."

Fellow safety Jahleel Addae also said Weddle served as a mentor for him during his time with the Chargers. They still keep in touch.

"It’s going to be crazy seeing him over there, knowing him as a Bolt," Addae said. "But he’s been going crazy over there, doing his thing last year and this year. He hasn’t slowed down at all. It’s much respect to him, coming in as a young player and learning as much as I can. Getting guidance from him meant everything."

Weddle said he doesn't know how he'll react when he sees those lightning bolt helmets and he's not wearing one.

In his nine seasons with the Chargers, he was never late to a meeting and never refused to help out in the community. It was about loyalty and sacrifice for Weddle until his departure.

Does how this parting unfolded still sting? Weddle paused about 10 seconds before answering.

"Not really. It happened," said Weddle, who plans to live in San Diego after his playing career is over. "I said what I said back in the day. I’ve grown past it. I don’t think about it. I don’t worry about it. If this game was right after it happened, it would be much different. There’s really no hard feelings at this point in my career."