SALT LAKE CITY — Shortly after word spread Monday that the Baltimore Ravens had cut their All-Pro safety, Eric Weddle took to social media to respond to football fans.
Oh, not THAT Eric Weddle.
THAT Eric Weddle, the one who had an All-American career at the University of Utah and who’s been an NFL star since 2007, eventually did tweet about being released by Baltimore. His three-year stint with the Ravens included three Pro Bowls and a 2018 AFC North title after the Chargers gave up on him.
“Ravens took a chance on me and will forever be grateful,” THAT Eric Weddle wrote. “Our family will miss Maryland. Excited to see where I end up next season!!!!”
By that time, another Eric Weddle had spent hours humorously playing and corresponding with football fans who mistakenly tweeted at him.
Though he snagged the @ericweddle handle on Twitter, a quick glance at his avi photo and bio description make it pretty obvious that THIS Eric Weddle does is not an NFL athlete.
THIS Eric Weddle is an educational journalist for an NPR affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana, a self-proclaimed veggie hedonist and the founder of an artist-centric record label called Family Vineyard.
Fellow Indiana news media member Brandon J. Smith predicted that it was “gonna be a fun day for my colleague @ericweddle” while retweeting a report that the Ravens had cut THAT Eric Weddle.
“I’m already blowing up,” THIS Eric Weddle responded.
And then his tweet storm really began.
“Come to Pittsburgh please,” one fan tweeted to THIS Eric Weddle.
“I was born there, maybe,” he replied.
“Dear @MiamiDolphins. There is this guy named @ericweddle. Go get him. Get him RIGHT NOW. PLEASE.”
“I’m here @MiamiDolphins!” THIS Eric Weddle wrote.
“Hey, @ericweddle please come hang out in Indy for a season or two,” a Colts fan named @mimidancer wrote. “Our young but capable defense could benefit from your ability and experience. Tell Chris and Frank I said to give you what you are asking for. #colts @colts see ya soon.”
What a coincidence, THIS Eric Weddle pointed out. “I’m in Indy now!!”
And it just kept getting weirder — and better.
“Trying to explain to my 6-year-old why my phone keeps buzzing,” THIS Eric Weddle wrote. “She seemed incredulous with the explanation.”
Believe it or not, THIS Eric Weddle’s coverage of the Indiana education system somehow doesn’t generate this type of attention.
By this point, two hours into the case of mistaken identity, it’s unclear whether people were earnest in reaching out to THIS Eric Weddle or just having fun.
“Eric, what’s your 40 time?” “Uh, 20?” He answered.
“Do you need an agent?” THAT Eric Weddle’s real agent jokingly tweeted.
“When did you shave?!?”
THIS Eric Weddle didn’t respond to that question other than to retweet it, but a Michigan sports fan made an astute observation.
“I agree,” he tweeted. “He looks unrecognizable without his beard.”
THIS Eric Weddle, clean-shaven and bespectacled, admitted he shaved his facial hair off a few years ago.
“Come to Pittsburgh!” a Steelers fan wrote. “Also, I don’t remember you being so nerdy. Must be cause you shaved the beard? Anyway, play for the Steelers. Thanks.”
That might not have been the most flattering thing to say to get THIS Eric Weddle to come to your team, by the way.
“I am not nerdy, rob,” he wrote back, later admitting his parents are Steelers fans.
THIS Eric Weddle also didn’t have a peaceful, easy feeling about the next suggestion.
“Eric, wanna join the @Eagles?”
“No,” he replied. “Really despise all their songs.”
We’ll assume he did not write that with lyin’ eyes.
“I’m gonna miss you in Baltimore, Eric,” one of THAT Eric Weddle’s fans wrote.
THIS Eric Weddle had some good news.
“I’ll be back in May for the @EdWriters National Conference.”
“Come to the Patriots please,” a New England fan chimed in.
“Think a lot of my Indy friends get angry over that.”
Did we mention THIS Eric Weddle is vegan? Shockingly, he brought it up when a Kansas City Chiefs fan asked him how he feels about barbecue.
“Eric Weddle is vegan. Seitan bbq only.”
And again — oddly so — when a Jets fan suggested his franchise forget trying to acquire Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and instead sign “a vet who understands TEAM over ME!”
THIS Eric Weddle pointed out that team is an anagram for meat, which he hasn’t digested in decades.
For the record, THAT Eric Weddle is not vegan.
“Sorry man,” Anay Zaveri wrote. “You will be missed.”
“I’m not dead, Anay.”
Some might have died from laughter from this entire thread — especially the part that included a merger between THIS Eric Weddle and THAT Eric Weddle.
Hours later, some NFL fans finally figured out the truth. THIS Eric Weddle is not THAT Eric Weddle — and the other way around. One person even asked THAT Eric Weddle about THIS Eric Weddle: “@weddlesbeard who is this fake @ericweddle guy?”
THIS Eric Weddle picked off that misplaced assumption like a safety might snare in a wobbly pass over the middle of the field.
“Fake?” THIS Eric Weddle wrote “I was born first.”
And then THIS Eric Weddle called it quits as a faux-NFL player on Twitter and offered both well-wishes and a warning.
“OK, all, been fun. Turning off these notifications. Best of luck to the other EW,” he wrote. “For my new followers, stay around for the Indiana ed policy tweets starting at 9 a.m.”
Sure enough, THIS Eric Weddle, a 42-year-old who told ESPN he likes swimming but is not a fan of football or the NFL, was back at what he does best — and that doesn’t include trying to read opposing offenses. The next morning, he was tweeting like crazy about the Indianapolis education system — including how the state-run Howe and Manual schools are preparing to become charter schools.
Asked if he’d like to offer any advice to THAT Eric Weddle, THIS Eric Weddle told ESPN, “Don’t screw up the good name both of us have! I’ll do my part, too.”