‘Workhorse’ Worrilow adds grit to Lions’ defense

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t talk much during the offseason, so it made sense for reporters to ask about his thoughts on the team’s recent release of linebacker DeAndre Levy.

But Caldwell deflected, and said he’d rather talk about the future than the past, and focused his answer on Paul Worrilow, one of the Lions’ free-agent acquisitions.

“We think he’s one of those guys that can move and run,” Caldwell said. “He’s been an active special teamer, but he’s also one of those guys that gets around the ball quite often (on defense). He has speed, he has desire. He’s one of those guys that’s a workhorse kind of guy. He’s got the right mentality and I think he’s going to help us.”

A three-year starter and leading tackler for the Atlanta Falcons from 2013-15, Worrilow ceded his role as part of the team’s youth movement, which included the addition of LSU standout Deion Jones in last year’s draft.

Even though he didn’t fit into Atlanta’s plans, leading to the move to Detroit, former coach Dan Quinn raved about the intangibles Worrilow had brought to the roster.

“Oh man, we could have a long topic talking about him,” Quinn said. “He’s one of the players who defines grit. His passion, his perseverance, his mindset to keep battling for things, that’s what (the Lions) are getting.

“He had to transition to a different role on our defense this year, where he was a really key contributor on special teams,” Quinn said. “But what the Lions, and the fan base up there, can expect is someone who is really consistent and all day is going to go for it in every way. He’s a fantastic teammate as well.”

Detroit, with its long-standing reputation as a blue-collar town, has a history of embracing of gritty athletes who overcome a talent deficiency with unmatched effort.

“From the get-go, I think the city attracted me, just being a blue-collar city,” Worrilow said. “It’s a place I can see myself being productive. It’s an opportunity to come in and compete. That’s all I want, not being promised anything.”

The Lions only signed Worrilow for one season, but his $3 million salary indicates the team expects him to play a role beyond special teams. General manager Bob Quinn projects Worrilow will compete for playing time at both middle linebacker and on the weak side, which Levy formerly manned.

“I think he has value in base defense, I think he has value in their sub defenses; he’s got a role in the kicking game,” Quinn said. “We’re going to throw him in the mix and see how it kind of works out with the guys that we have and any guys we might add. He’s not the total answer to everything we want, but we think he’s a really good signing that we kind of targeted early on.”