After the Falcons drafted Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri in 2010, former linebacker Mike Peterson used to call him Simba.
He was the young Lion, who would grow to one day rule all of the NFL jungle.
But injuries derailed Weatherspoon’s climb and he left to play a season for Arizona, before re-signing with the Falcons on Friday. There were no promises of leading the defense or re-instating his captaincy. All Weatherspoon wants from a one-year contract, is a chance to revive his once-promising career.
“I had fun in Arizona, but my heart, it’s in that Georgia Dome,” Weatherspoon said. “I know it’s only on year left in there, but we have to make it a good one. It feels great to be back.”
Weatherspoon appeared on his way to ruling the jungle. He was the captain of the defense in 2012 when the Falcons reached the NFC championship game. But things started to go sour in 2013, when he suffered a hamstring injury.
While rehabbing over the offseason with wide receiver Julio Jones, Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles and missed all of the 2014 season.
He was hampered by more hamstring issues in Arizona last season, before contributing down the stretch on special teams and with covering running backs out of the backfield.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Weatherspoon said. “At the time, you might not agree with the battle that God has put in front of you. Ultimately, you just have to attack it. That’s what I did with everything that I went through. I just continue to keep working and I just continued to stay positive because it was by God’s grace that I even had a chance to be a part of this league. I don’t take it for granted at all.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn likes Weatherspoon’s open-field tackling, but made no promises.
“At this point, I’m just working to do whatever I need to do to make sure that my body will be ready when I come back here in April,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the guys.”
The Falcons, who released last season’s weakside starting linebacker in Justin Durant, are re-vamping their linebacker corps.
“The speed was there and the tackling was there,” Quinn said. “Those were the things the lit me up watching him.”