I talked to ex-Seattle Seahawks fullback Leonard Weaver for the first time since he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Weaver talked about his frustrations on not getting a deal done in Seattle.
Weaver also said that he believes the team announcing the head coaching change to Jim Mora from Mike Holmgren before last season began created in the locker room.
And he also wanted one last chance to thanks Seahawks fans for supporting him during his time in Seattle.
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"I've connected with so many people on a personal level," Weaver said. "And it's just been a hard deal knowing that I want to be here and I made that clear to the organization a number of times, and here it is we still can't get nothing done.
"And now it resorts to this where I have to make a secondary choice, which I did. So it makes it very tough. Guys like (Lorin) Big Lo (Sandretzky0 and Hawk Fiend, guys who I've met on a personal level and who are really passionate about the Seahawks, it's been tough being able to look at those guys and leave.'
Weaver signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Eagles that could go as high as $2.5 million if incentives are reached. He picked the Eagles over Seattle, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Houston because Weaver believed he'll have more opportunities to showcase his skills in Philadelphia's offense, which is similar to Holmgren's system, along with having a chance to play with guys like running back Brian Westbrook and quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Weaver and his agent, Harold Lewis, marketed the fullback out of Carson-Newman College as a hybrid who could play both running back and fullback, but had to wait three weeks into free agency before finally making a decision to go to Philadelphia.
Weaver said he believed Seattle did not offer him what he was worth, nor show that they were interested in keeping him because no one from the organization contacted him during the offseason to talk about what his role might be in the offense.
"I felt like if they wanted me to come back to the organization they would have put me in contact with someone involved in the offense, or somebody who's looking and saying, 'Hey, we maybe would want to use this guy in this offense,'" Weaver said. "But nobody did, so I kind of felt like, 'Okay, at least I know where I stand in terms of what direction they want to go.'"
Weaver also said Mora impending takeover as the team's head coach may have played a role in the team's 4-12 season.
During his introductory interview in Philadelphia, Weaver talked about a division in the locker room between Holmgren followers and Mora followers.
"I think it affected us as a team a lot," Weaver said in the interview, which can be viewed here. "Some players, I think in some sense, it kind of got divided. The team divided a little bit, some guys were for Mike, some guys were for Jim. And, you know, I think when you make a move like that, that's not the best move for a team. However, it was what it was."
Running back T.J. Duckett, signed by Seattle team president Tim Ruskell during last offseason, who played for Jim Mora while in Atlanta, addressed Weaver's statement in an interview with KJR-AM's Ian Furness on Monday.
"I think in our locker room we had a great locker room," Duckett said. "And I didn't feel any bad blood or anything that may have been negative. I know we didn't have the year we wanted to, but guys still came to practice every day and worked, and that was to bottom line. It was a friendly looker room. I'm not sure what happened in terms of other sidebar with themselves and what not. But overall, in general people came to work. … I never felt the focus was on who was going to be the coach next year. It was all on our opponent and what we had to do to win the next game."
You can listen to that interview in this audio link.
Weaver clarified his comments in our conversation today.
"You know, I'm not a mind reader," he said. "Everybody's agenda is different, but I think it may have had something to do with it for some players because with the new regime coming in and you knowing it's going to happen, it kind of puts you in a position as a player like, 'Man, I don't know if I'm even going to be here next year. I don't know if this guy wants me as a part of his team.'
"You know, we're all great players and we all know that. But at the same time, we didn't know what his (Mora's) direction and what his plan was. So he's the guy, and obviously you've got to go with his direction. And a lot of players didn't know, and some did know. So it was a little tough I think, and it could have caused some distractions for some players."
Check out the entire conversation with Weaver below.
Q: Why don't you talk about the decision making process that eventually led you to take Philidelphia's offer and leave Seattle. Why was that a better situation for you, and how hard was it to not and resign with the team that gave you your start in the NFL.
Weaver: "The decision was very difficult in some ways, but in others it wasn't so difficult. Seattle, they're going in a different direction, of course, and I kind of felt I wasn't part of that direction. And so that kind of made my decision a little bit better in the sense of using my talents and abilities to be able to further my career and have more opportunities."
Q: Was it a hard decision in terms of the connection you had made with fans here? This is a place where obviously you learned from Mack Strong and other veteran players, and a place where you went to the Super Bowl. Was it hard to break those connection with the organization?
Weaver: "That's for sure. That's one thing I've been trying to do this week, is set up a press conference, and I've been having some static. But yeah, I definitely have appreciative fans, and that's the reason why I want to do the press conference. I want o let the fans know that I have appreciated them so much. And I don't think they could begin to understand how they've allowed me to come in and accepted me as player and a person in the community, which allowed me to use my abilities and talents to be inspiring, along their ability to cheer for us and be an inspiration for us as well."
Q: Did you stay here during the offseason as well? Is this a place where you made it your full-time home? And did that make it harder for you?
Weaver: "Yeah, it really made it hard because of the relationships I've developed here. I know for myself I'm a people guy. I love people and the friends here, I've connected with so many people on a personal level, and it's just been a hard deal knowing that I want to be here and I made that clear to the organization a number of times, and here it is we still can't get nothing done. And now it resorts to this where I have to make a secondary choice, which I did. So it makes it very tough. Guys like Big Low and Hawk Fein, guys who I've met on a personal level and who are really passionate about the Seahawks, it's been tough being able to look at those guys and leave.
Q: With that said, do you feel like the Seahawks treated you fairly in the negotiation process, and that they offered you a deal that what you felt like you were worth?
Weaver: No, I don't think it was fair. I don't think I was worth that. Of course, that's my opinion. And I believe I bring a lot to the game. And I wasn't trying to seek anything that I thought was unreasonable. But at the same I have to also respect that they have a new system coming in. They've got new coaching and a new way they're doing things, and I respect that. Of course I wanted to be there, but obviously you can't change that aspect of the business.
Q: So it sounds like you weren't sure you would have had as much of a role in the new system as you did in the past?
Weaver: "Exactly. Nobody tried to talk to me. Nobody reached out and said, 'This is what we want to do.' And it was kind of weird, because I felt like if they wanted me to come back to the organization they would have put me in contact with someone involved in the offense, or somebody who's looking and saying, 'Hey, we maybe would want to use this guy in this offense.' But nobody did, so I kind of felt like, 'Okay, at least I know where I stand in terms of what direction they want to go.' And that's totally awesome. And from that point on I made my decision and said, 'You know what, I'm going to go somewhere where I can excel in my abilities and talents, and I'm going to let the young guy Owen Schmitt come in and be the best that he can be, and he's a great player. So Leonard will be forgotten very shortly.
Q: So you believe Owen Schmitt can come in and fill in reasonably well in terms of the fullback position?
Weaver: I think Owen's going to come in and do a good job. He's a young player. He's a young guy and he's developing his game. He's been a fullback longer than I have. I kind of was in that transitional phase, but I think is going to do a great job. And I think he's going to do a great job pass blocking, along with run blocking. He knows what he needs to work on personally, and I think he's going to do great job filling in. He's going to surprise a lot of people.
Q: You took the one-year deal with Philadelphia, and obviously there's some pros and cons with that. Why did you feel that was the best move for you?
Weaver: Well, No. 1 I thought going to the East Coast would be more beneficial to my family for that decision. The other part was the offense. I thought it would be great to go to an offense that I was familiar with. I don't have to worry about the learning curve, and then on top of that I would get the opportunity to do some things and bring some of the talents and abilities that I have to the table to help this team win.
Q: So you felt like it was better opportunity to show what you can do, and then maybe you could get a better contract next year when you get to go out on the market again?
Weaver: Definitely. That's for sure. It's a good opportunity to show what I can do to not only Philly but other teams out there. And then if Philly offers a long-term deal, that would be great. But if not, hey man it was a great time and we move on.
Q: But then you don't have the security of a long-term deal now. Does that weigh on you at all?
Weaver: It doesn't weigh on me at all because I know first of all things happen for a reason. And truly I believe in God, and God has helped me so much throughout my career, and I know that he's going to lead my life every step in every direction I go. Sometime things don't work out. That's life, and you've got to be ready to adjust. And I have been able to adjust. This is an opportunity to apply myself and be able to have that long-term deal next year.
Q: Did it come down to Philadelphia and Seattle, or were Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the mix as well?
Weaver: No, Tampa Bay was definitely in the mix. Minnesota was in the mix. Houston was in the mix. There were a couple of teams in the mix. They were all around the same area as the Hawks, but I felt like my best fit was in Philly in terms of offense and what I was used to. So I felt like I could go somewhere and be comfortable and fit right on it and be able to compete.
Q: Along with that, you get to play with two guys that can make big plays in Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb. That obviously had to have some allure to be able to play with guys like that, particularly with the Eagles finishing one game away from the Super Bowl?
Weaver: No. 1, that's one of things I looked at – they're winning quite a bit. And that's not to say the Seahawks haven't been winning. We had one bad year. I think the Seahawks are going to do great next year, and I believe that they are going to the playoffs. But with the Philadelphia Eagles that played a big role. I mean what two guys would be better to be around than someone like Brian Westrbook – to be able to block for him that would be an honor. And also to play behind McNabb, who can make plays with his arm and his feet. That makes my job a lot easier.
Q: In your introductory interview in Philadelphia you mention the fact that you thought there might have been some division in the locker room in Seattle, with players either lining up with Holmgren or Mora last season. How much do you believe that had an affect in the outcome of last season?
Weaver: I think it had a little bit, maybe not a lot. I think injuries had a big deal to do with it. But I think the whole situation with that, probably a little bit because it was announced before the season and it can be kind of a distraction. So, for a little bit I think it did, but I don't think it was the reason why we lost the way we did.
Q: So are you saying with the coaching change early in the season maybe people were thinking about their future with the franchise in terms of the coaching change and not fully focused on the season?
Weaver: I think it could have. You know, I'm not a mind reader. Everybody's agenda is different, but I think it may have had something to do with it for some players because with the new regime coming in and you knowing it's going to happen, it kind of puts you in a position as a player like, 'Man, I don't know if I'm even going to be here next year. I don't know if this guy wants me as a part of his team.' You know, we're all great players and we all know that. But at the same time, we didn't know what his direction and what his plan was. So he's the guy, and obviously you've got to go with his direction. And a lot of players didn't know, and some did know. So it was a little tough I think, and it could have caused some distractions for some players.