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Eric Weddle's influence with Ravens continues to grow (along with his beard)

The Ravens have tried to solve their safety problems the past three offseasons. Former Chargers standout Eric Weddle is the latest attempt to shore up their deep coverage. AP Photo/Nick Wass

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Eric Weddle is beginning a new chapter these days. He is practicing with a team other than the San Diego Chargers for the first time in his 10-year NFL career.

The Baltimore Ravens want to make sure he stays the same, old safety whose leadership is key to fixing their secondary.

"I told him, 'We want Eric Weddle. Don’t hold back. Don’t be quiet. We want you. If you yelled when you were with the Chargers, I want you coming out here yelling. Just be yourself. Grow the beard back because we want the beard. If that’s who you were, grow the beard,'" said Lardarius Webb, who will start alongside Weddle this season.

During the Ravens' first full week of offseason practices, Weddle's influence on the defense is growing, along with that trademark beard. Weddle is talking to a teammate or a coach after every play. He wants to learn not only Baltimore's defense but also what everyone is seeing.

"This guy’s got the kind of attitude that you respect and I think you respond to," coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s got an enthusiasm for the work day. He loves football. He loves every part of the work day. He loves every part of being in here and being a football player. There’s never something that you look at him and he’s not excited to do. That is infectious."

Communication has been a problem for the Ravens' secondary. There were too many instances when defensive backs were giving each other confused looks after giving up big plays.

Since Ed Reed left Baltimore in 2013, the Ravens have allowed 16 touchdowns on passes that have traveled at least 25 yards in the air. Only three teams have given up more.

Weddle is the Ravens' most decorated defensive back since Reed.

"I’m just another piece of the puzzle," Weddle said. "I’ve got to know my role and do my job at a high level and get those guys playing at a higher level than they have. I know I can do that for them."

The Ravens have tried to solve their safety problems the past three offseasons. Baltimore signed free agents Michael Huff, Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis and drafted Matt Elam in the first round and Terrence Brooks in the third.

Unlike the others, Weddle brings an edge that, if things go according to the Ravens' plan, will rub off on the other defensive backs.

"He’s so confident and comfortable with who he is, and he just fits right in right away," Harbaugh said. "For whatever reason, he fits in with the Ravens. He fits in with how we do things around here just perfectly."