Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett was an emerging star in his second NFL season, earning Pro Bowl honors and living up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick.
That 2015 season seems like a distant memory for Verrett, who has played in a total of five games since due to a knee injury that ruined each of the past two years.
As he prepares to enter his fifth NFL season, Verrett is determined to recapture the form that had him on track to becoming one of the league’s best at his position.
“Just comparing, it’s a night and day difference to where I was at last year,” Verrett told the team’s official website. “I’m ready to get back to playing at the level I know I can play at. … Man, I feel like me out there again. I feel like Feeva is coming back.”
Verrett started 14 games during his Pro Bowl campaign, registering 47 tackles and three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
However, the former TCU standout, taken by the Chargers with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been unable to stay on the field in his other three seasons, appearing in 11 games total.
A shoulder injury landed Verrett on injured reserve during his rookie season and a partially torn ACL in his left knee ended his 2016 season after four games.
Verrett underwent surgery to repair the knee, but he experienced soreness in the 2017 season opener and went back on injured reserve two weeks later. That led to another surgery on the knee.
“Going into last season, in training camp, it was tough for me,” said Verrett. “I was hoping for a breakthrough. I was hoping for the scar tissue to break up. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Coming in Week 1, I knew mentally I wasn’t ready. I knew physically I wasn’t ready. I just was trying to go out there with the competitive mind set that I have.
“I felt the surgery was needed. It was tough having to get another surgery and dealing with all of that, but it was needed.”
Los Angeles returns both of last season’s starters at cornerback, Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward, along with slot corner Desmond King. Despite the competition, Verrett is more focused on showing that the injury hasn’t diminished his skills.
“I feel every year you have to prove it, but in my situation, being out for two seasons, I feel like I have to prove it,” said Verrett. “That’s something I strive to do each and every year. I want to prove the level that I know I can play at. So they are going to feel me out there.”
Gus Bradley, the former head coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars before taking over as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator last season, likes what he has seen from Verrett in the offseason.
“His skill set, what he has, his speed, his athleticism, his change of direction — it is elite,” said Bradley. “Just to see him go through the individuals sometimes, you see a guy come back from an injury like that, it takes some time. I don’t see it right now. The way he’s working out (and) the way he’s practicing, he’s in a really good place right now.”
The Chargers have not reached the postesason during Verrett’s tenure with the club, but that is just a part of the motivation that is driving Verrett with training camp on the horizon.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit more juice, just dealing with the fact that I lost two seasons,” said Verrett. “I’m hungry. I’m going to grind. I’m going to grind, grind, grind. They’re going to see the Pro Bowl player they saw in 2015.”