Falcons fans can expect a little less of one thing from third-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in the coming season, but a little more of something else.
The offseason exit of former middle linebacker and defensive leader Curtis Lofton means some of the leadership on defense will fall on the shoulders of outside linebacker Weatherspoon. On Tuesday, he said the most notable change in his role will be on third downs. This season on the key defensive down, Weatherspoon will be responsible for directing the defense into position and it means a little less celebrating after a key play.
"From what I've been told, I'll be the one getting the signals from the sidelines," the linebacker said. "That's going to be something that's different because last year I'd make a play and I'd have a chance to celebrate a little longer and Curtis would round up the guys and then I'd come to the huddle. This year if I make a play I've got to make sure I'm looking to the sideline to make sure I'm getting the call from coach, get the defense lined up and be ready to go."
The always cordial Weatherspoon made sure to take to Twitter following his press conference to assure Falcons fans that he'd still be doing some of his famous post-play spoon dances.
"Don't worry Falcons Fans, I am still gonna pull the Spoon out and
EatGreedy," he wrote. "I'm just gonna get back to the huddle quicker, lol."
Weatherspoon said he anticipates that he'll need to be more verbal and not just on third downs. With a laugh, he said he won't have a problem talking a little more. Already a player whose voice is not lost on the field, Weatherspoon said he looks forward to the increased leadership role.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge," he said. "I think Im ready for that, to do a little more and step out there and do some different things. I look forward to the challenge and I think it's going to be fun."
He said he did some of the play calling as a senior while at Missouri and also performed that role during the Senior Bowl following the 2009 college season.
The absence of Lofton means players like Weatherspoon will be needed in new roles. Second-year middle linebacker Akeem Dent will have an opportunity to step in and replace Lofton in the middle and the two of them will have a challenge and an opportunity in front of them. He's also thankful for some of the veteran leadership that is still in place for Atlanta.
"When you've had someone that's been the focal point of the defense for three or four years it's tough to replace," he said. "We've got to work hard together. I think coach (Mike) Nolan has a system in place and coach (Glenn) Pires will do a great job. All the older guys like Steve (Nicholas) and even Lofa (Tatupu) coming in with his experience, I think we'll all do a great job of moving on."