Soon-to-be third-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has had a busy offseason so far. After a breakout sophomore effort with the Falcons, which included finishing the regular season tied for 13th in the league in tackles with 115, Spoon has been doing some traveling and visiting family. He recently stopped by his high school in Jasper, Texas to speak to the entire student body about playing in the NFL, setting goals and following their dreams.
I had a chance to chat with Sean about a wide array of topics in his first interview since the season ended.
Jay Adams: You had a second season that any longtime veteran in the NFL would be proud of. What was the difference for you from your rookie year?
Sean Weatherspoon: Well, I think it was just time to get familiar with what we were doing, even though we didn't have OTAs and we started camp on time (due to the lockout). It was just getting with the older guys and basically just studying a lot harder and trying to be a student of the game. That's something I have to attribute to my coach, (linebackers coach Glenn) Pires, Curtis (Lofton), Mike (Peterson), Steve (Nicholas) — all those guys helped me learn and I just soaked it all in. Each week, I just tried to go out there and just do my job. It was a pretty good year, but I'm not satisfied. I want to do better and have a bigger year. I want to be All-Pro, I want to do all of that, so I'm just going to work hard and try to get there.
JA: The playoff loss to the Giants was a tough one to move past, and you've experienced two heart-breaking playoff exits in your young career. Months later now, how is that loss to the Giants sitting with you?
SW: It's still that sour feeling. Every time I work out, I think about that last game, so it's something that's definitely on my mind a lot. But you definitely have to get over it and I think I'm over it. I think once we get back and get things going and get back to gelling that team, I think we'll be all ready to try to get to that next step. This upcoming season, we've just got to work hard and once we get to that point where we have the opportunity to play that second season, we'll just take advantage of it. Hopefully, we can do that this year.
JA: The pass rush has been a conversation for the past few seasons now. Being someone who contributes to that effort, what do you see as the challenges to getting to the quarterback more?
SW: I think we just have to really shore up the defensive line because I think we have enough talent. Once we get our roster set, I think we'll be fine, but I think we've got the guys that we need to get to the quarterback. The linebackers, we have a pretty good blitz scheme that we can use, too, and I think the new defensive coordinator, Coach (Mike) Nolan, he'll be a big key to that. I just look forward to getting back and working with him. I'm sure the guys will be ready to come off the edge again this year. I look forward to just getting back with my teammates. We'll get to the quarterback.
JA: You mentioned Mike Nolan, who was hired shortly after the season ended. What do you know about him and how excited are you to dive into his system?
SW: I went back and did a little research to see the places he's coached and what types of defenses he's run. I know he ran a 3-4 last year and our personnel is pretty much set for a 4-3, and I read that we were going to continue to run a 4-3 system but we were going to change some things and I look forward to it. I know he's been a head coach before in this league and he's been a very successful defensive coordinator and I've seen a lot of players that have played under him. One player I saw last year a lot was (Miami linebacker Karlos) Dansby and I like the way he played in Coach's system, and I think we have a pretty good shot to do some better things on defense this year. We improved last year, but we want to take that next step. We want to be talked about, so hopefully once we get together and we all figure out the plan, we'll all start working collectively toward that goal and we'll be good.
JA: You know, D-Block might be the most popular thing in Atlanta since the Dirty Bird. How surprised were you at the success of the show and what might fans expect from D-Block in 2012?
SW: Man, I was definitely surprised. I didn't know that it'd be that big of a deal, but you could tell once it started going those first couple of weeks and all the fans were talking about it on Twitter and everybody was really excited about it. Mike Peterson did a really good job of being the lead correspondent, and I think the guys on the panel as well, the rest of the guys on D-Block had good questions. It was fun, and we kept it 100 percent real, and that was fun. I think the fans really liked it because of that. I think D-Block will continue to be a success. I think we'll have fun with it this year and the fans can get excited about it again.