GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jerel Worthy first mentioned Adrian Peterson. That’s the outcome the Green Bay Packers’ second-year defensive lineman hopes to replicate in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Peterson’s remarkable comeback from a torn ACL sidelined the Minnesota Vikings’ running back for only eight months before returning to the field and becoming the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Then, Worthy brought up Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls’ point guard — and former NBA league MVP — who has yet to play in a game after tearing his ACL more than 13 months ago. That’s the path Worthy wants to avoid.
“It really just depends on the person,” Worthy told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “‘Don’t go out there until you’re comfortable.’ That’s basically the biggest advice that I got.”
Worthy is at least a couple months away from finding out whether he’ll reach the level of comfort that Peterson did in such a short amount of time. Worthy’s injury happened in Week 17 last season and he didn’t have surgery until late January, so being ready by the opening game of the 2013 season is very unlikely. But Worthy is determined to not let this cost him an entire year of his young career.
“I will be back at some point in time this year,” Worthy said. “We really haven’t put a set date on it. But I’m just trying to continue to have a positive mindset about things and just stick to the game plan. Every day I’m working to get better, every day I’m taking a step in the right direction as far as coming back. I’m just trying to work my butt off and have an opportunity to continue to grow and use this time right now to get the mental aspect of the game down.
“I’m doing pretty well and I’m at peace with what’s going on right now. I just have to continue to make sure I can get better.”
Worthy’s surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, who is the go-to surgeon for professional athletes with that type of injury.
So far, Worthy hasn’t had any setbacks in his recovery. With plenty of optimism about his near future, the 23-year-old has remained motivated this offseason to be more of a Peterson and less of a Rose.
“I want to go out there and showcase my skills just like the next guy,” Worthy said. “Whatever I can do to help the team, I’m always for it. I’m just going to do what I can right now. If I have to cheer from the sideline, that’s what I’m going to do.
“But when I get my opportunity, I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
The Packers were hoping Worthy would better capitalize on his opportunities as a rookie. In a rare move by general manager Ted Thompson, Green Bay traded up in the second round of the 2012 draft to select Worthy with the 51st overall pick. That was considered a bit of a slide down the draft board for Worthy, who was projected as a potential late first-round prospect.
Worthy started four games and finished the season with 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Worthy was mostly used as a pass rusher, but he didn’t generate pressure on the quarterback with the frequency that was needed. According to data from ProFootballFocus.com, Worthy rushed the quarterback on 314 plays and produced nine total hits or hurries (2.9 percent).
“I had some success last year and moving forward into the next year, the future for the Green Bay Packers is so bright,” Worthy said. “I want to be a part of the competition.”
That competition on the defensive line now includes Green Bay’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, Datone Jones. Though the Packers have work to do in improving the performance of their defensive line, the team has several options aside from Worthy. In addition to Jones, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Mike Neal and Josh Boyd, along with other players currently trying to make this year’s 53-man roster.
The most important thing for Worthy right now is his health. Competing against the rest of Green Bay’s defensive linemen will have to wait. And while Worthy doesn’t want to rush his return, seeing Peterson’s dominance following ACL surgery is often on his mind.
“Understanding that (I’ll) be around here for a little bit, so I want to get out there and play, but you never want to risk your career for a short reward,” Worthy said. “As long as I can continue to stay on top of everything and continue to keep a positive mindset, everything has been going very well for me.
“I’m just excited for the year to come up and I can’t wait to showcase my skills when I can.”