At first, Jerel Worthy swore it was nothing more than a bone bruise.
Days after the Green Bay Packersí season ended, however, the realization soon hit that the rookie defensive lineman was going to miss the teamís offseason program because of surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
An early draft entrant from Michigan State, Worthy wasnít able to make the instant impact the team hoped for when they traded up to take him in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, finishing the season with 23 tackles and 2Ĺ sacks in 14 games.
Even before sustaining the injury in the teamís regular-season finale against Minnesota, Worthy struggled to duplicate the same quick off-the-ball instincts that made him a difference-maker in the Spartans' defense.
Torn ACLs can be tricky, especially when it comes to 300-pound defensive lineman who could use the second-year seasoning of an offseason program, but the 23-year-old still says donít count him out for 2013.
ďIím not really putting a time limit on it. They will see me at some point in time this season,Ē Worthy said. ďThe earliest I can be back and be most effective, Iím ready to go. Iím just going to try to continue to working and keep continuing to keep striving. As Iíve said before, I havenít had any setbacks to this point. Itís all been positive coming from my corner, so I just want to continue to stay on that path and continue to get better.Ē
Could a 2013 return simply be lip service? Absolutely, but Worthy said he's seen progress in the four months since undergoing the procedure, which was conducted by renowned Dr. James Andrews.
Heís been a fixture at the past two organized team activity practices open to the media and able to do some light work independently, but is still missing a key offseason program in his development.
The Packers aren't in a position to rush Worthy back, either. They dipped back into draft with first-round defensive lineman Datone Jones and nabbed another in the fifth round in Mississippi State's Josh Boyd.
Meanwhile, the team tends to lean on the side of caution in these matters. Last season, tight end Andrew Quarless had aspirations for a Week 1 return from ACL and MCL surgery, but wound up splitting his third NFL season between the physically unable to perform and injured reserve lists.
As great as Adrian Peterson's remarkable recovery from his reconstructive knee surgery, the Packers watched as their own running back Alex Green wore down late in the season after pushing for an early return.
For Worthy, this is a new process. Outside of the two games he missed last season with a concussion, Worthy hasn't forged many battles ith injury, but insists this bout with ACL surgery won't demoralize him.
ďIt was a little disappointing but you have to take it in stride,Ē Worthy said. ď(I) just want to stick to the game plan. Everything is moving very well for me. Iím taking some really good strides and havenít had any setbacks, so just praying for the best and hopefully you guys see me soon.Ē