For someone like Paul Worrilow, timing is everything. And, so far, the timing has not been good for the native Delawarean who is trying to defy the odds and make the Eagles final roster.
Nobody knows that more than Worrilow, who has made a career out of defying the odds. But this time is different because this time he can’t do anything about it. Worrilow is still hampered by a knee injury that wiped out his entire 2018 NFL season, and no amount of hard work, no amount of willpower, will make it heal more quickly.
It will take time, and that is one thing Worrilow doesn’t have.
His chances of making the team get slimmer with every practice drill and preseason game he misses. He’s finally able to practice some, but he won’t be suited up when the Eagles play their second preseason game on Thursday night against Jacksonville, and that gives Worrilow just two weeks of practice and two more preseason games to prove that he belongs on the final roster.
Worrilow has told reporters that he understands his situation and realizes that the longer he stands on the sideline, the longer the odds become. And he seems resigned to that, mainly because he’s done everything humanly possible to get back on the field and sometimes things are simply out of your control.
But what has to be especially galling for Worrilow is he knows he would have had a golden opportunity to prove himself if he were healthy, simply because some other linebackers aren’t healthy – probable starters Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill are sidelined with foot and knee injuries, respectively.
On the Eagles unofficial depth chart, Worrilow is listed as second-team middle linebacker behind Bradham, which means he would have gotten most of the practice reps in Bradham’s place and would have replaced him in the lineup for preseason games, if only he was healthy.
If this does become the end of the NFL road for Paul Worrilow, he has the satisfaction of knowing he’s had a heck of a ride. For one thing, he wasn’t even drafted and will have spent six seasons on an NFL roster, which isn’t bad in a sport where the average career is about five years.
In that time, Worrilow played in 72 games and started 52 of them. He has 412 tackles in that time, and in his first season in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013, his 142 tackles were fifth in the entire league. Worrilow also has 11 passes defensed, four sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Those aren’t numbers that will get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but they certainly will get him into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame someday.
Worrilow began his football life at St. Mary Magdalen School in Brandywine Hundred, then was the state defensive player of the year while leading Concord High to a state championship for legendary coach George Kosanovich. That wasn’t enough to get him any scholarship offers, so he went to the University of Delaware as a walk-on and ended up becoming a four-year starter and, eventually, their best defensive player.
Once again, that wasn’t enough and Worrilow was overlooked by all 32 teams during the 2013 NFL draft, so once again he was basically a walk-on. He signed with the Falcons as a rookie free agent, and rookie free agents are usually on the roster to give the team fresh legs during training camp drills before they’re sent packing for the Arena League.
But Worrilow’s combination of intelligence and aggressiveness earned him a roster spot, and then injuries pushed him into the starting lineup, and once again he excelled. For the next few years, he was a core member of the Falcons defense – in 2014 he played on 99 percent of the defensive snaps for Atlanta.
But the Falcons wanted more speed and pass coverage ability out of their linebackers and in the next two years drafted three of them in the second, third and first rounds. Worrilow hung around because of his play on special teams, but his time in Atlanta was over.
He signed with Detroit in 2017 and played well when given the chance – Worrilow played in 13 games for the Lions, starting eight – but when the Lions brought in a new coaching staff last year, it was time for another change.
And this one appeared to be perfect – Worrilow signed a one-year contract with the Eagles, the team he rooted for growing up. But if life has proven one thing, nothing comes easily to Worrilow – he tore ligaments in his knee during an off-season training program and missed all of the 2018 season.
That knee has been slow to respond in its rehabilitation despite Worrilow’s hard work and determination. One of the oldest clichés in the world of sports sums up his situation – you can’t make the club in the tub.
All Paul Worrilow can do now is hope for more time and it’s a cruel fact that there just isn’t much of it left.