GREEN BAY – Jerel Worthy sounds considerably more confident than Derek Sherrod that he’ll be back on the practice field as soon as the window opens for him to come off the physically unable to perform list and start participating again.
Then again, Worthy hasn’t been waiting nearly as long as Sherrod has.
Both Green Bay Packers players are eligible to start practicing after Sunday’s game at Baltimore. PUP rules allow for a three-week window during which players can begin practicing. Whenever a player participates in his first practice during that three-week window – whether it’s on the first day, the last day or somewhere in between, that starts a three-week clock on the player. At the end of those three weeks of practicing, the team must decide whether to activate the player to the 53-man roster, rule him out for the season or release him.
Worthy, a defensive end who was a second-round draft pick last year and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the Dec. 30 regular-season finale at Minnesota, believes he will start practicing right away and expects to be given the green light to play in games shortly thereafter. Sherrod, a left tackle who was the team’s 2011 first-round draft pick and hasn’t played since breaking his leg in a Dec. 18, 2011 game at Kansas City, continues to cross his fingers and hope he’ll be cleared.
According to Packers coach Mike McCarthy, that will happen with Sherrod.
"Derek Sherrod, he's definitely going to play this year. He looks great," McCarthy said on his TV show earlier this week. "It has been a long process for him coming back. I'm glad we took the extra time. He's ready to go. He's not available until after six weeks (per PUP rules). He looks good. I'm excited to get him on the practice field."
A third player, safety Sean Richardson, is on PUP with a neck injury and doesn’t know if the Packers will activate him or decide that his neck poses too much risk and will release him, as they did with Nick Collins.
For Worthy, the wait has been difficult, especially since he believed he could have been cleared in time for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener. Instead, the Packers told him early on in his comeback that he’d start the year on PUP to give him some extra time to heal, and reminded him that not everyone recovers from ACL tears the way Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did last year.
“That’s the approach we took about it, but at the same time, our training staff has done such a great job that I could have been ready to play Week 1 if they needed me. But our defensive line has been doing such a great job this season. Regardless, I’m just being the best cheerleader I can be and biding my time,” Worthy said. “I’m basically back to being ready to go. We’ll see over the next couple weeks what the guys upstairs are looking forward to doing with me and how they want me to contribute once I come off the list.”
While Worthy said he hasn’t had any setbacks, Sherrod has had plenty on his road to recovery. Perhaps that was why – in addition to having a more laid-back personality than the excitable, outgoing Worthy – he wasn’t quite as open about his expectations for returning.
Nonetheless, for all the times Sherrod has spoken about getting back on the field, his voice had a greater tone of optimism than in the past, based in part on Dr. Pat McKenzie’s progress reports to him. Sherrod started last year on the PUP list, too, but never saw the field.
“The trainers, they’ve been working me pretty hard and we’ve been making a lot of progress. We’re trying to make it happen,” he said. “Obviously no injury is easy. But there’s injuries that are on different levels. It’s all about keeping your head up and how you try to overcome. That’s my whole mentality about the situation.
“I’m definitely looking forward to when I’m back out on the field. It’s been a long time. I’m definitely happy about when that time is, coming up. I’ve got to talk to (McKenzie) again, but it’s definitely going to be a very exciting moment whenever I am out there.”
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