Fear the beard: Weddle aims for perfection

With his team's offseason program underway, San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle’s long, gnarly beard is back for an encore. The cat-quick safety looks ready for an appearance on "Duck Dynasty."

“It's definitely through the season,” Weddle said, when asked when he'll shave his beard. “Hopefully it’s through the Super Bowl, and I’ll cut it. But I want to get it down to here maybe (pointing to his chest), and then braid it and cut it. But who knows.”

Weddle says he can barely buckle his chin strap.

“I’m going to have to figure that out,” Weddle said. “It bothered me all season. I’m going to have to figure out something there because my helmet kept coming off. And that’s not fun when you’re tackling someone and your helmet’s coming off.”

A year ago after the Chargers hired head coach Mike McCoy, Weddle made an interesting proclamation, calling San Diego the best team in the league. Cue the laugh track.

But the Chargers proved closer to Weddle's prediction than perhaps fans and folks around the NFL believed, finishing eight quarters away from the Super Bowl.

“To finally get back to the position was really exciting -- to get back and have those games finally mean something,” Weddle said about last season. “But we have a lot of work to do. Everyone’s getting better in our division, around the conference and in our league. And everyone has high aspirations.”

So how do the Chargers build on what happened last season?

“We have a lot of guys back that were playing at that time,” Weddle said. “And another year of experience, another year of getting coached up by the great coaches that we have, will only make us better in the long run.

“I expect us to play at that level or even higher. We expect a higher level of play from us. Those last eight games that we played at the end of the year, that’s what we expect from us for next season.”

Individually, after taking a few weeks off, Weddle said he's taken up yoga to improve his flexibility, along with regularly playing pick-up basketball to stay in shape.

He maintains a clear and simple aspiration to work toward during the offseason.

“To be the best,” Weddle said. “It’s as simple as that. Each year you look at yourself. Where weren't you good? Where were your negative plays, and why did it happen? Was it physical, or mental? Was it timing? Is it something you can work on, or is it something that happened, and earlier in the season wasn't happening?

“You look at all of those things, try and correct it and be coachable.”

While the Chargers finished the 2013 regular season by winning four straight and making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, like Weddle, quarterback Philip Rivers understands there's still room for improvement.

"I think it's quickly realizing that we were 5-7," Rivers said. “We were struggling there for a bit. It wasn't like we were lights out all year long. So I think we take what we can take that was good, and quickly put that behind us and try to become a team again.”