FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Sean Weatherspoon made his presence felt right away in the Atlanta Falcons locker room.
Some things never change.
Weatherspoon began his third stint with the Falcons on Wednesday, even reclaiming his familiar No. 56. Rookie Jermaine Grace had been wearing that number, but he agreed to switch to 54.
“It’s great to be back,” Weatherspoon said, swaggering up to his locker as if he never left. “This is a place where I feel like I can be myself. I’m comfortable here.”
The 29-year-old Weatherspoon, a first-round pick of the Falcons in 2010, spent five seasons with Atlanta but was plagued by injuries. He signed with Arizona in 2015, playing in 14 games, before re-joining the Falcons last year.
Again, Weatherspoon was sidelined by an injury, going down in Week 4 with a ruptured Achilles tendon .
It looked as if his career might be over, but he stayed in shape and kept bugging the Falcons about another opportunity. When rookie linebacker Duke Riley left last week’s loss at New England with a knee injury — he’s expected to be out about three weeks — Weatherspoon got the call.
He came in for a workout, and showed enough to win over coach Dan Quinn.
“He really had explosion and burst, and that’s what I was wanting to see,” Quinn said. “We thought that having some extended time for the rehab was good. It’s been over a year since he had his injury.”
Long one of the most outspoken players on the team, Weatherspoon has no intention of toning things down in what is likely the twilight of his career.
“Spoon!” quarterback Matt Ryan said, breaking into a big smile. “It’s always good to have Spoon back. You certainly hear him when he comes in. I’ve loved him as a teammate, playing with him for a number of years. It’s good to have a familiar face back in there. He can do good things for us, for sure.”
Weatherspoon will likely start out on special teams, but Quinn hopes he can work into good enough playing shape to warrant some time at both inside linebacker spots.
“It’s going to take more than a day or two to get ready,” Quinn said. “But he’s chomping at the bit.”
Weatherspoon isn’t looking too far ahead.
He does think he can help the Falcons break out of their three-game losing streak, even if he’s not on the field.
“You see a whole lot of talent,” Weatherspoon said, glancing around the locker room. “You just feel like you can come in and maybe use your voice a little bit to kind of keep everybody a little bit more loose, a little more relaxed and having fun out there.”