CHICAGO (BVM) – The Chicago Bears new general manager Ryan Poles made a lot of moves during NFL 53-man roster cuts. The new GM picked up six players on waivers, the most of any NFL team. Linebacker Sterling Weatherford was one of the players the Bears picked up through waivers.
“I actually showed up the next day to sign with the practice squad and then I got a call that said ‘Welcome to Chicago,’” Weatherford said about the day after he was cut from the Colts. “It was a little bit of a whirlwind. I packed my car, me and my fiancé packed up and headed out that night.”
Then came his rookie debut, Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers in Chicago, in what can only be described as a monsoon. The city of Chicago was pelted with a month’s worth of rain in a day and Soldier Field was flooded.
“It was awesome,” Weatherford said. “The Bears fans, they were just rocking. The stadium was definitely alive. Even through the monsoon or whatever came through, the environment was very special.”
Playing in the rain, splashing around in the mud, Weatherford felt like a kid again. He couldn’t help but smile and getting a win never hurts either. It won’t be a game he soon forgets and the fans also made a lasting impression on him.
“I felt welcome, I felt like, ‘Wow this fanbase is amazing,’” Weatherford said.
It was a positive start to a Chicago Bears career that Weatherford is excited about. The team wanted him here and Weatherford knows that he can be a strong contributor on this team.
“I’m definitely excited about being up here in Chicago,” Weatherford said. “I feel like there is a lot of opportunity. I feel like the coaches are definitely invested, they believe in their players. It’s a great atmosphere to be in.”
The Bears and the New Orleans Saints were interested in the Miami (Ohio) product after he became a top performer at the Colts training camp. To many around Indianapolis, Weatherford had felt like a guy who had played his way onto the 53-man roster but ended up being the victim of the business side of the NFL. Even though they cut him, the Colts were not happy that he didn’t clear waivers.
Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard said losing Weatherford to waivers was a “hard one.” The undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) University showed a lot of potential. Especially considering he was playing linebacker for the first time in his career.
At Hamilton Heights High School and as a Redhawk, he had been a defensive back but his 6-foot-4, 230–pound frame was perfect for an NFL linebacker. He played the position for the first time at the Senior Bowl. Once in Indianapolis, the Colts wanted him to play the position and Weatherford was more than willing.
“It felt right…There were some growing pains definitely but it got me to where I’m at right now which I’m very thankful for,” Weatherford said.
His understanding of playing coverage along with his size and athleticism gives him a lot of potential to thrive at the position.
“It’s a passing league for sure and it’s a precision league,” Weatherford said. “It’s a game of inches so those throws get put into tight windows so being familiar and being able to feel some of the routes. Having the strength at coverage definitely is a good skill to have.”
He’s still getting used to not being ahead of everything and letting guys run past him because the secondary is there to pick them up but he is learning quickly. And now with the Bears, he has a head coach in Matt Eberflus that was a linebacker coach and star linebacker Roquan Smith.
“It’s been awesome working with them,” Weatherford said. “Obviously our head coach has a lot of knowledge about the linebacker position, that definitely helps. I’m a converted safety so there’s a little bit of a learning curve still just with getting used to the schemes and how to play certain things. Those guys are super knowledgeable and helpful.”
Eberflus also came from Indianapolis to join the Chicago Bears and he too is making his rookie debut as a head coach. According to Weatherford, the first-time head coach and his coaching staff have been building something special in Chicago.
“You can definitely tell that belief is in the air,” Weatherford said. “Buy-in is there, you got a lot of people encouraging others, playing and pulling for your teammates and that’s contagious. I think the coaches, they’re preaching the right things and the big name players on the team are buying in.”
“You definitely just feel the excitement, you feel the buy-in, you feel the confidence, that just radiates.”
The Chicago Bears are a new team under a new regime and one of the early moves they have made was to bring in Weatherford. The first-time linebacker is ready to make a difference in the Windy City.