FOXBORO -- Jerel Worthy stepped off the back fields at Gillette Stadium on Monday and couldn't remember how long it had been since his last practice. That's how long it had been since he was healthy enough to play.
The 6-foot-2, 308-pound defensive tackle has had the first two years of his NFL career interrupted by injury, which helped allow the Patriots acquire him last week in a trade with the Packers for a conditional draft pick.
Though Worthy had been dealing with a back ailment and had not practiced all summer for Green Bay, he was deemed well enough to strap on pads for the Patriots this week.
"I'm just ready to get to work," Worthy said. "My focus is on making this team and earning a spot. I'm just trying to do my best everyday."
Worthy is one of two moves the Patriots made recently -- they also traded corner Justin Green for defensive tackle Ben Bass -- to bolster their depth after they lost two players to injury during their week of joint work with the Redskins: Sealver Siliga (wrist) and Chris Jones (ankle).
Both Siliga and Jones were spotted in the Patriots locker room on Wednesday, Siliga wearing a brace on his left wrist, Jones with nothing on his left ankle and walking without a limp. Indications are that both players have avoided worst-case scenarios, but the depth that Worthy provides as a middle-of-the-line player has value.
While last year Worthy's season was all but lost to injury (he played in two games), his rookie campaign saw him get into 14 contests and make four starts. He also still carries the pedigree of being a second-round pick, 51st overall, in the 2012 draft.
"He didn’t play very much last year," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He played quite a bit his rookie year. He was a good player coming out of Michigan State, played well in a good conference against good people. He’s got some athleticism and he’s got some size and we’ll just see how it all fits together for us. Happy to be working with him, happy to be working with him. We’ll see how it goes."
As Belichick intimated, Worthy's spot on the 53-man roster is far from a guarantee. Though it's been a position plagued by injury in the recent past, the Patriots have talent at defensive tackle: Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly have looked strong after suffering season-ending injuries in 2013; rookie first-rounder Dominique Easley impressed in one-on-one drills on Monday as he returns off of ACL surgery; and Siliga and Jones are likely to have spots on the roster if their injuries progress as expected. Rookie sixth-rounder Zach Moore, Joe Vellano and Bass could also fit into the mix at that defensive tackle.
Worthy knows he'll have to perform to be given an opportunity to make the team. The Patriots made that clear to him when he was acquired.
"The only thing they've talked to me about is that I have a chance to compete," Worthy said. "I have a chance to come in and work hard every day. If I do the necessary things, I'll have a spot on this team. I gotta work hard first. Hopefully I can just go out there and earn it."