KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy’s path to the Chiefs practice squad has been anything from normal when considering his origins.
The 6-2, 308-pound Worthy entered the league out of Michigan State as a second-round pick (51st overall) of the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 NFL Draft.
From an early Day Two selection of the draft to the practice squad three seasons later isn’t exactly the career progression for a highly-touted player out of college.
Injuries didn’t help, however, as a torn ACL on the final game of his rookie season and a back injury in 2013 contributed to the bump in the road.
The Packers eventually traded Worthy to the New England Patriots on Aug. 13, 2014, but the Patriots released the third-year pro weeks later on Aug. 30 before the Chiefs signed Worthy on Tuesday.
“It’s a humbling situation,” Worthy said Thursday. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and had some bad luck with injuries. But I know I’m a good player and I can produce in this league. I’m just trying to make sure I can go out there and prove it.”
Worthy has appeared in 16 career games with four starts. Fourteen of the appearances and all the starts came during his rookie season where he recorded 14 tackles (11 solo) and 2 ½ sacks with four quarterback pressures.
The 24-year-old native of Huber Heights, Ohio, picked the right spot to reboot his professional career.
The obvious connection to explain the Chiefs’ interest in Worthy is general manager John Dorsey, who previously served as the Packers director of football operations in 2012.
And knowing Dorsey was in Kansas City played a role in why Worthy chose to sign a practice squad contract.
“John Dorsey has always been in my corner since when I got to Green Bay,” Worthy said. “He’s always been a good dude and he’s always had my best interest at heart. He’s given me the opportunity to come in here and prove myself and I’m just excited to be here.”
The Chiefs won’t hand everything to Worthy on a silver platter regardless of past connections.
Worthy understands he’ll need to show the coaching staff he belongs for consideration to be elevated from the practice squad to the active roster.
And the former second-round selection has that goal in mind to display the skills that made him the 51st player off the board in the 2012 NFL Draft.
“I think just show my athleticism and be consistent,” Worthy said, “and just keep myself healthy. That’s the biggest thing. Once I do that, I can just get back on top.”
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe returned to the active roster Tuesday after serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.
And the team’s No. 1 receiver is ecstatic to be back.
“It feels awesome,” Bowe said Thursday. “Feeling good, feeling great, happy to be back and be with my team. Just doing what Dwayne Bowe does and that’s bring high energy and just play my game to the best of my abilities.”
Bowe said he watched the season-opening 26-10 loss to the Titans at home. He said the Chiefs “played good,” but admits there were some areas that weren’t so good.
The passing game sputtered without Bowe, as quarterback Alex Smith completed 19-of-35 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown against three interceptions. His favorite target was wide receiver Donnie Avery, who was thrown to 13 times.
“I think the biggest thing with Dwayne being back is he and Alex’s rapport,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Thursday, “that continuity. Alex has that trust in Dwayne being out there, plus just having that veteran leadership on the field with a lot of young receivers that we have.”
Bowe looks forward to getting on the field to offer the offense a boost.
“Some things we could have done better,” he said. “But I’m happy to be back to help us improve in the areas we need to improve in and just move forward.”
And there’s apparently no concern over his overall physical well-being.
“I’m healthy,” Bowe said. “My finger feels good. I’m just ready to go play.”
FRANKLIN GETS ELEVATED
The Chiefs on Tuesday elevated inside linebacker Jerry Franklin from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to offer depth with Derrick Johnson (Achilles) on injured reserve.
“It was like one of those bittersweet things for the team,” Franklin said Thursday. “D.J. went down, unfortunately, so I’m just trying to step in do what I can to help this team out.”
Franklin entered the league in 2012 as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas with the Denver Broncos. He bounced around the practice squads of the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys before the Chicago Bears signed him in December 2012.
The 6-1, 245-pound Franklin appeared in 13 games with the Bears where he recorded eight tackles (six assists), but Chicago released him on Aug. 30 leading to Franklin joining the Chiefs on Sept. 1.
He’s currently behind James-Michael Johnson at right inside linebacker, but also projects to contribute on special teams with Johnson now starting.
And he’ll perform that duty with a coach familiar with him from their time together with the Chicago Bears.
“He’s a good cover guy,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Thursday, “a good blocker. He’s got a lot of speed, plays with great effort, smart guy and we feel like he can help us right now at this point.”
Regardless where he lines up, Franklin believes his skills translate to whatever the Chiefs require of him.
“I think I just make plays,” he said. “Whether it’s the run game or the pass game, I just try to make big plays when the time is needed.”