Everybody loves 'Spoon.
From Day One of training camp last season, fans showed up with wooden spoons to cheer on the Falcons' newest first-round addition.
He was popular before he hit the field for a reason: His smile is as big as the way he plays. His enthusiasm for the game of football won over his teammates quickly and it translates to an all-out player on the field. Often it's like he's releasing his inner child, reminding us all of the game we played as children, Get the Man With the Football.
Spoon is seeking the ball on the field. He's seeking the right to be called one of the best. On the sidelines he's seeking laughs. But, don't misunderstand him; he's here to play and this season he wants to make good on his first-round draftee status—a status that means you're expected to make a significant impact on the team.
Last season was a little bit of a loss for Weatherspoon. Injuries allowed him to only play in 11 games, starting six. Of course he got his mental reps in and his study habits are unquestioned, but 'Spoon is entering this season with intentions of staying healthy and in turn staying on the field.
"My main thing is I'm going to stay healthy and on top of what my responsibility is," he said last Friday. "I'm always in the book. I'm always trying to get better. If I stay out of the training room I think I can be pretty successful."
The emerging leader of the linebackers, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, agrees with Spoons' assessment. He shared on Tuesday his own desire to see No. 56 lined up beside him.
"Number one thing we just want him to stay healthy," Lofton said. "Then progress in his mind. He has everything to be a great linebacker. But you've got to bring it from the practice field to the game field. I think he's going to do that this year."
So far this training camp, he's been on the field every day making things happen. He's often the loudest after a play and is often in on some of the biggest plays coming from the linebacker position. Head coach Mike Smith saw last season just how valuable his young linebacker is to his defense. Weatherspoon's key abilities is the skill to cover in the passing game and the head coach shared with the NFL Network's Mike Mayock yesterday how much his absence hurt the team's nickel-package on passing downs, specifically third downs.
This morning he gave an assessment of Weatherspoon's progress and gave no indication that he's concerned about the 2010 first-rounder.
"Sean's looking very well," Smith said. "Sean's got a much better comfort level in terms of what we're trying to do. ...He's getting more comfortable. You see the athleticism. You see the comfort level and he's making advances every time we come out on the field."
This season may be Weatherspoon's time to shine and he wouldn't want it any other way. He's happy with all eyes on him.
As he hollered to his teammates today as practice began to hit a fever pitch:
"It's time to dance."