When the Falcons announced they re-upped Sean Weatherspoon earlier this month, the immediate response was overwhelmingly positive. Once a skilled member of Atlanta's defense, a vocal leader and one of the locker room's biggest personalities, the veteran linebacker earned a lot of fans in Atlanta.
His popularity has been well-deserved since they day he was drafted, but Atlanta didn't sign Weatherspoon this month for the sake of nostalgia. He was brought on board to help Atlanta get back to its winning ways.
So how can he assist on the field?
Given Weatherspoon's injury history—and the damage sustained to his lower-body, in particular—his physical condition is still somewhat unclear. But if he's relatively healthy after dealing with foot, hamstring and Achilles tendon problems in the last three seasons, Weatherspoon should be a viable depth linebacker and special teamer.
In the best case scenario, the six-year veteran will stay off the injury list and perform like his old self. If that happens, he could work his way up the depth chart and become an important part of Dan Quinn's defense.
As he knows, crazier things have happened in the NFL.
"In this league, man, anything can happen," he said. "I saw last year, they played a lot of guys at linebacker last year. I saw one guy come in here and start after being here only four days. You never know what's going to happen so you just have to take it one day at a time."
And even though Weatherspoon used to be a star in Atlanta, he understands the circumstances have changed this time around. Signed to a one-year, prove-it contract, he's willing to take on any role that can help the Falcons improve in 2016.
"Looking into those guys' eyes and talking to them about scheme and where they see me fitting in with my skill set, I mean, it just made the most sense," Weatherspoon said of returning to Atlanta. "Like I said, I've been here before. I know this city. I'm grateful to ever be a part of this city and basically come back. I'm just pumped. I'm pumped to go and just do something."
What's more clear is the value Weatherspoon can provide off the field. Because linebacker is an area of need, there's a strong chance the Falcons will invest one or more of their five draft picks on that position next month. As someone who was picked in the first round and joined Atlanta with high expectations, Weatherspoon could offer some crucial guidance to the rookies—some of whom will be asked to contribute right away.
"Football has always been a way you could reach me with the game," he said. "I cherish the game that much. And I just look forward to getting back out here and just working with the guys. And wherever the chips fall, that's where they're going to lay."