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Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow not reserved about playing different role

"I love running down on kickoff and all the coverages," Paul Worrilow said. "All the teams, that's ball. Ball is ball, in my mind. Every snap is all the same to me when I'm out there." AP Photo/John Bazemore

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- True to his character as a team player, Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Paul Worrilow didn't get too caught up in talk of starting or not starting this season.

Worrilow, the team's leading tackler the last three seasons, understood he'd be in a competition from the moment the team drafted speedy Deion Jones. And Worrilow knew Jones would get the majority of the reps throughout the preseason.

Now that the Sept. 11 opener against Tampa Bay is around the corner, Worrilow is ready to accept whatever role the coaches ask him to fulfill.

"Whatever my role is, I'm going to go out there with the mindset to dominate it and be the best that I can," Worrilow said. "I'm not worried about that kind of stuff because this team is so much bigger than an individual. Any role I can get, I want it. And I want to go out there and play well."

The Falcons were intent on improving the speed of the defense, which is why they drafted Jones in the second round after he ran a 4.38 in the 40 at LSU's pro day. Jones' crash course in directing the defense from the middle has led to more special teams duties for Worrilow. The former undrafted player from Delaware earned his opportunity by thriving on special teams during the 2013 preseason.

"I love running down on kickoff and all the coverages," Worrilow said. "All the teams, that's ball. Ball is ball, in my mind. Every snap is all the same to me when I'm out there. If special teams in my opportunity to put the helmet on and go there and run around and hit people and contribute to this team, that's where I'm at."

Of course the prideful side of Worrilow wants to remain on the field in a primary role. He knows the defense probably better than anyone, and the mental edge is something he has on the rookie Jones, although Jones has adjusted quickly.

"I know this defense in and out," Worrilow said, "but I look at it more like whoever is out there, if I'm not out there, if I can be a tool for them -- walkthrough, pointers -- if they come to me with something or something pops up, I can go address it with them. And they know I know what I'm talking about. That's how I look at it.

"Like I said, it's bigger than the individual. This team is awesome, man. The culture here, it's about the team first."

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich appreciates Worrilow's team-first approach.

"Not only has he played great on special teams, but he's be super, super solid on defense," Ulbrich said. "I think he's improved his tackling. His knowledge of the defense has increased. He's doing a great job for us. Plus he's really becoming a mentor for these young guys, doing all those little things behind the scenes.

"I think he's a guy, whether he starts or not, it's not going to change his appetite to start and his hunger to play on this defense. He's an invaluable guy to our team. I've got ton of respect for him not only for what he does on the field, but also what he does off it."