Minnesota's efforts to build back its defensive line will include bringing back Stephen Weatherly.
The seventh-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft is returning to the Vikings squad that he was part of for four seasons before signing with the Panthers as a free agent in 2020.
Weatherly played in 49 regular-season games from 2016-19 and made seven starts, recording 84 total tackles with 6.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
His work included rotating at defensive end with the likes of Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, as well as kicking inside for some situational interior rushes during his time under the tutelage of defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who was promoted to co-defensive coordinator last year.
View photos of Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly who the team recently welcomed back.
The Vikings know exactly who Weatherly is, which is extremely valuable when adding a free agent, and Weatherly knows exactly what to do in order to do his job in the Vikings defense, which is even better.
His return is similar to that of Shamar Stephen, a seventh-round pick in 2014 who played for Minnesota until 2017 before spending a season in Seattle and returning to the Vikings in 2019.
In addition to being a reliable contributor, Weatherly also is one of the most interesting players in the entire NFL.
Here are 5 things to remember about the Vanderbilt alum:
1. Instrumental player
Weatherly knows how to play nine musical instruments. It all began with the flute in elementary school in the suburbs of Atlanta. Between then and college, Weatherly learned clarinet, trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba and tenor saxophone.
He learned steel drums and piano during his time in Music City, and the latter really helped him de-stress from scrapping for playing time as he headed into 2017 after spending most of his rookie season on the practice squad.
You can read more about how the piano helped Weatherly's progression here or opt for the digital version of the 2018 Week 17 Playbook.
2. It really is a symphony
Weatherly, perhaps more than any other player on the Vikings roster, can appreciate the way each instrument contributes to a symphony. That understanding can translate to understanding just how interconnected each member of the defensive line is to the success of a play.
Weatherly's most famous play as a Viking is forcing the fumble by former Eagles QB Carson Wentz that Linval Joseph returned 64 yards for a touchdown in 2018. Doing his job well enabled Joseph's rumble. He took information that Jalyn Holmes passed along between plays about an Eagles offensive lineman tiring to know it would be a good time for an inside rush move.
"The ball was snapped … I tried to sell it as hard as I could to the outside and pop inside really fast. I saw Wentz with the ball, loading it back, so I was putting my head down and tried to drive as quickly as possible so he [couldn't] get it off. I thought he threw it."
3. In the forecast?
In 2019, Weatherly participated in a video series called "The Weatherly Report" in which he partook in multiple types of experiential learning outside of football for episodes of Vikings Connected.
The opportunities included this science lesson with Ecolab as well as a tasty trip to the Minnesota State Fair where he stepped behind the counter of Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar in a bright-yellow T-shirt.
While it is uncertain if the series will be renewed, it is sure that Weatherly will continue to be as well-rounded as the famed bucket of chocolate chip cookies.
View the top photos of Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly from the 2019 season.
4. What's in a namesake?
Weatherly's middle name is Dian in tribute to his grandmother, a graduate of Harvard and MIT.
A sociology major himself at Vanderbilt, Weatherly has committed to the promotion of education, encouraging others. He has met with youth groups, including students who visited the Vikings Museum in February 2020 for a Black History Month panel discussion. He also joined teammates for visits to the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, playing chess with a young lady at the facility.
Weatherly also was active with the Vikings Social Justice Committee, which began its efforts in 2018 and has expanded each year. He was among the first Vikings players to visit All Square in 2019.
5. Committed to ending domestic violence and helping mental health
Weatherly also has been involved with helping the One Love Foundation work to end domestic violence and in 2019 traveled to Navajo County in Arizona to speak on NFL Suicide Prevention Night.