Worthy carries big upside as he works his way back

Worthy carries big upside as he works his way back
August 24, 2014, 2:45 pm
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FOXBORO -- At this time of year, every player signed has to bring a tiny wave of anticipation to the personnel staff. The feeling that, if everything goes really well, that player could be a find.
 
For most, the best-case scenario might be capable backup and solid special teamer. For a few, it’s a lot higher.
 
That’s Jerel Worthy. Friday night against the Panthers, the thick, powerful defensive tackle (and 51st selection in the 2012 draft) had a few plays that showcased his strength. Late in the game, the Panthers pounded the football and Worthy took on blockers and double-teams and held his ground to ruin some runs.  
 
“I was just trying to play with good technique and not let any runs come to my side,” said Worthy. “I feel like they challenged me a lot in that second half but I just tried to be stout in the run game and help our defense out the best way I can.”
 
Worthy needed the challenge. After playing just two games last season as he recovered from a torn ACL suffered in late 2012, Worthy jacked up his back during the offseason in Green Bay.
 
He was on the Packers non-football injury list throughout camp before he was dealt to the Patriots for a conditional pick.
 
“He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said last week. “He’s got some athleticism, and he’s got some size, and we’ll just see how it all fits together for us. (I’m) happy to be working with him.”

At 6-foot-2, 308, Worthy’s strength and quickness are what entice. The injury history and the pre-draft belief that he had a tepid effort level are what concern. Ideally, Worthy becomes a fast inside contributor who could be paired up inside with Dominique Easley to terrorize. But that’s a long, long way away.
 
Now, Worthy’s worried about sticking.
 
“If I listen to and learn from the guys that are in the (defensive tackle) room already, I got a shot to make the team,” he said Friday. “It’s always challenging when you’re trying to learn a new scheme and you’ve been in a different system for so long but at the end of the day it’s just football. Once you get the calls down, you can let the technique and everything take care of itself.”
 
Worthy said he is good to go health-wise.
 
“I’m not tired but I got a lot of work to do. Need to shore up my fundamentals a little bit.  I’m healthy. I’m 100 percent healthy, I feel great. These guys have taken care of me since I got here. Even the guys up in Green Bay, they took care of me so I’m just ready to get back to playing football and having fun.”
 
This being the first action he’s had in some time, Bill Belichick is looking at the small picture for Worthy right now.
 
“The big thing is that Jerel just hasn’t played. This is the first week he’s practiced or played, kind of similar to a couple other players that we brought into camp . . .” Belichick observed. “There’s an acclimation process to playing football. I think that goes for any player. I’m sure he went through that this week and in his first game and we’ll see how that goes going forward.”