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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Friendship translates well for safeties
SAN DIEGO – Once safeties Eric Weddle and Steve Gregory became teammates in 2007, they became almost inseparable.
Their lockers are next to each other, often you’ll see them walking out of Chargers Park together, and now they line up next to each other on the field.
With the two spending as much time together off the field, it makes one wonder how much it helps with continuity on the field.
“One, it’s a trust factor. Two, we know how the other plays,” Weddle said. “A lot of times we just look at each other and we know what we’re going to do or we read off each other. That’s what comes with being around each other and playing with each other for five years.”
A lot of hype surrounded Weddle and Bob Sanders as the duo to watch in the secondary. But a knee injury sidelined Sanders and he was placed on Injured Reserve after playing just two games.
Enter Gregory, who has started every game since Week 3 after starting just 18 games in the previous four seasons.
“I’ve always known he’s a good player and he’s a guy that knows and feels he can play at a high level and start,” Weddle said. “Year in, year out, he keeps proving the kind of player that he is.”
Gregory has a similar outlook on the communication between the two.
“To put it into perspective, if you’re out there with someone you know nothing about, you don’t know their personality and the easiest way to get across to them,” Gregory said. “With Eric and I, we spend so much time together off the field that we can almost predict what each other are going to do without even saying something.
“Communication should be great when you’re yelling at each other, but there’s also communication when we’re not saying anything.”
That communication contributed to a Pro Bowl year for Weddle this season. His seven interceptions are tied for the league lead and his 83 tackles are third-best on the team heading into the final week.
In the previous four seasons, Weddle had a combined six interceptions.
“I think his confidence is there and he’s catching the ball. He’s made plays on the ball in the past and for whatever reason he’s dropped the passes,” Gregory said. “But he’s a heck of a football player. His preparation is second to none and I’m happy for him and the year he’s having.”
Despite Weddle’s seven interceptions to Gregory’s one, Gregory was able to do something Weddle didn’t this season: find the end zone.
On his 26-yard interception return for a touchdown against Baltimore, Gregory scored for the first time since his college days at Syracuse.
“There was no one in front of me and they got a good block on the quarterback and I was in the end zone. Gregory said. “I don’t dance like (Mike) Tolbert but I do my best.”
Gregory and Weddle have helped San Diego’s intercept 19 passes this season (tied for seventh in NFL), six more than in 2010. The Chargers’ 211.6 passing yards allowed per game ranks 10th in the NFL.
“It’s just like the connection Philip (Rivers) and Antonio (Gates) have on offense,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “They’ve been playing together for a while and look what they do together. Eric and Steve are quite a tandem back there.”