Last season, Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones picked Paul Worrilow's brain about reading quarterbacks' tendencies and offensive formations. This season, the topic of discussion has changed a bit -- to fatherhood.
The most recent conversation between the two former teammates had little to do with football and everything to do with raising baby girls. Jones became a first-time father before the season, while Worrilow, now with the Detroit Lions, has a 5-month-old to go with his 2-year-old.
"He always gives me advice, even through the whole pregnancy," Jones said of Worrilow. "He helped me out so much. I mean, he’s always seen me as a little brother."
Worrilow refused to take much credit.
"I just told him that being a dad is the greatest thing in the world," Worrilow said. "That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve got my two daughters now.
"I was just preparing him, like, 'Look, daddy’s little girl? It’s a real thing.' You try not to spoil them, but my wife has to pull the reins when I want to buy my 2-year-old [something]. I just tell him it’s a blessing. Nothing compares to that love between a dad and his daughter."
This Sunday in Detroit, Jones and Worrilow will enjoy a brief reunion when the 2-0 Falcons face the 2-0 Lions. Jones, who finished third in last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, was the one who took the starting middle linebacker spot from Worrilow after Worrilow led the Falcons in tackles for three consecutive seasons. But there was never any animosity, as Worrilow fully realized Jones’ speed and coverage ability gave him the advantage.
Jones has nothing but the utmost respect for how the situation was handled by Worrilow, who served as a mentor to Jones throughout the entire 2016 season.
"I really feel like without him last year, it would have been tougher trying to grasp everything so fast," Jones said of Worrilow. "I really feel like he helped slow things down for me. He helped me get my life in order. He pretty much taught me how to be a pro, how to go throughout the week and have a plan and how to take care of my body."
Worrilow often told Jones not to get down on himself about making mistakes and worry about the "next play" instead. If Jones did mess up, Worrilow told him to make sure that he was going full speed regardless.
Worrilow developed a reputation for being the first Falcon to arrive in the building around 5 a.m. Jones started joining him to get a better grasp of the defense.
"He grinds, man," Worrilow said of Jones. "He’s got the speed and the talent, but there are things that people don’t see. They see him on Sundays flying around and making plays. It was about the next day and him being in there breaking down film. He’s hungry, man. You can see it. It’s no surprise he put himself in the position he’s in. He’s a good one. And the whole world knows about him now."
There are high expectations for Jones in Year 2 in the defense. He played 139 of 143 defensive snaps through the first two games and had 12 total tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.
As a starting linebacker in Detroit's base package but one who has come off the bench the first two games with the Lions starting both games in the nickel package, Worrilow, who also plays a significant role on special teams, has played 24 of 131 defensive snaps with two tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defended.
Asked if he missed being with the Falcons, Worrilow said his daily schedule -- including time with his daughters -- doesn’t give him much time to think about it. Sometimes he’ll laugh, though, when he thinks about how Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich always yelled at Jones for biting his nails in the meeting room.
"It used to crack me up when Brich would get frustrated," Worrilow said. "Some people chew seeds, but Deion bites his fingernails."
Jones is unsure how long he’ll get to visit with Worrilow on Sunday, but he already has a plan in mind. Earlier this season, Jones tweeted about being apprehensive about asking opposing players to swap jerseys. Such won’t be the case with Worrilow.
"For sure, I definitely need his jersey," Jones said.
Said Worrilow: "It’s about the respect level for your opponent and someone you hold in high regard. So, yeah, we will swap."