Crutches leaning against his locker and left leg extended, Jerel Worthy perused his cell phone while his Green Bay Packers’ teammates took in the 24-10 wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night.
Unable to play with the severe knee injury he sustained a week earlier against the Vikings, the 6-foot-2, 308-pound rookie defensive lineman never had been in this position before.
Worthy made 38 starts during his three years at Michigan State and never missed a game when the Packers nabbed him in the second round of last April’s NFL Draft.
Outside of a concussion that sidelined him for two weeks, Worthy played as many snaps as any other defensive lineman on the roster this season, but this was different.
Two weeks ago, Worthy had to be carted off the Metrodome field turf for the first time in his career after his knee buckled on the final drive of the Packers’ eventual 37-34 loss to the Vikings.
A few days later, the Packers ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Team doctors still are waiting for the swelling to go down before making a determination, but Worthy is hopeful it’s only a serious bone bruise rather than a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“I was a little hurt because it was the last series of Week 17 and everything,” said Worthy of his reaction to the injury. “Me personally, I don’t miss games a lot. I never missed a game in college, so I’m always thinking positively that I’ll be able to bounce back.
“Coach (Mike) McCarthy is a guy who’s been around here and addressing injuries for some time now. He always has his player’s best interest at heart, so when he said it’s best to sit down, relax and everything I just took his word for it.”
Worthy, who left after his junior year with the Spartans, finished his rookie year with 14 tackles with 2½ sacks and one forced fumble, but vows to be better in 2013.
On Saturday, the 22-year-old could only watch and take pride in his fellow defensive linemen holding Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson to 22 carries for 99 yards after shredding the Packers’ defense for 409 in two regular-season contests.
While his teammates prepare for San Francisco, all Worthy can do is hope for the best and set his sights on rehab.
“It just goes to show everybody is not made of steel,” Worthy said. “I’m going to bounce back and I’m going to be better than I was this year. Green Bay has a lot to look forward to with me.”
-email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.