FOXBORO, Mass. — Jerel Worthy’s first two years in the NFL didn’t go as he or the Green Bay Packers planned. The 2012 second-round pick was traded to the New England Patriots for a conditional draft selection after suiting up in just two games last season.
Worthy has a chance to start over with the Patriots, but after missing most of training camp with a back injury, it’s safe to say he’s now starting from the bottom. Worthy passed his physical and suited up for practice with the Patriots for the first time Monday.
“It’s a humbling experience, but it comes along with the game,” Worthy said afterward at Gillette Stadium. “I’m just excited to get back out there and go out there and compete and just earn a spot.”
Worthy mentioned four times in just over two minutes with the media that his goal is to earn a spot on the Patriots’ roster. After entering camp late, however, it could be an uphill battle for the third-year pro. Worthy enters a cloudy situation at defensive tackle, where Patriots rookie Dominique Easley is coming back from a knee injury, and second-year pros Sealver Siliga (hand) and Chris Jones (ankle) have missed practice over the last two weeks because of injuries.
Veterans Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly look to be locks for the 53-man roster, so Worthy will compete with Siliga, Jones, Joe Vellano, Ben Bass, Marcus Forston, Eathyn Manumaleuna and L.T. Tuipulotu for between one and three more spots at the position. Worthy, as a former second-round pick, has plenty of upside, but there’s a reason the Packers were willing to let him go for next to nothing.
“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 of Worthy before Monday’s practice. “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.”
Worthy competed in 1-on-1 drills, where he impressed, but he wasn’t ready for team drills. To ensure a spot on the Patriots’ roster, he’ll need to be healthy enough to play in a preseason game by Patriots roster cuts on Aug. 30 — especially since he no longer has PUP eligibility after suiting up for practice.