Football / Sports

DL Jerel Worthy traded to the Patriots for conditional draft pick

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After two-plus seasons plagued by injuries, Jerel Worthy's time in Green Bay appears to be up.

The Green Bay Packers have traded the third-year defensive end to the New England Patriots, pending a physical, his agent Chafie Fields tweeted Tuesday. In return, the Packers will receive a conditional future draft pick, a league source said.

Thus, the trade hinges on Worthy first getting cleared by the Patriots doctors.

To date, Worthy hadn't developed into the disruptive, gap-shooting interior lineman the Packers envisioned. In Year 1, he struggled to get playing time, recording 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks before tearing his ACL Week 17 at Minnesota. That injury held Worthy back for most of Year 2 when the 6-foot-2, 304-pounder had one tackle in two games.

Then, this offseason, Worthy suffered a lower-back injury while weightlifting in February and general manager Ted Thompson drafted Khyri Thornton in the third round of May's draft. He has been on the non-football injury list all camp.

On Tuesday, Worthy suggested multiple times he was good to go, and simply waiting on the final green light from Thompson.

"I could play. I feel really good. I feel 100 percent," Worthy said. "But like I said before, we've always led the league in injuries and stuff so I can't really blame the front office for being really cautious with players. They're counting on me this year, so I have to step up and respond."

Worthy admitted he was lifting too much weight for too many reps when he suffered the injury hang-cleaning in February. At the time, he thought it was only muscle spasms. Yet when Worthy reported to the Packers in April, the team realized he needed lower-back surgery.

The Packers, Worthy continued, have a plan for every player on the team. He wasn't stressing out. But he also knew that Thompson doesn't always wear his emotions on his sleeve.

"Ted's always been up front with me and he has put me on a day-to-day basis type of thing," Worthy said. "Sometimes, he can be a little secretive about what he wants to do. But you just have to trust the guys upstairs on making the best decision for the team and for you as a player. So, man, I'm just trying to continue to work hard, keeping my head up.

"And going through that injury is a humbling situation. I'm really blessed to be here and I want to prove to my teammates that I'm a good player."

In Green Bay, it's business as usual. The defensive line has moved on without Worthy this summer with B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels and Datone Jones starting in base, and young promising players such as Josh Boyd, Thornton and Mike Pennel developing. Veteran pick-up Letroy Guion has missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury.

This loss is the latest blow to a 2012 draft class that served as a referendum on the Packers' defense.

Of those six defensive players taken in a row, Worthy (second round), safety Jerron McMillian (fourth round) and linebacker Terrell Manning (fifth round) are all gone. Mike Daniels and Casey Hayward have grown into two of the defense's top playmakers, but the verdict is still out on first-rounder Nick Perry.

As for Worthy, he gets a fresh start in New England.

Before this offseason, Worthy said he never experienced any back problems. And on Tuesday, grinning through a 20-minute conversation, he was optimistic for 2014. He said he did not believe his roster spot was in danger "because I know what caliber of player I am. And I know what I bring to this football team" and he wasn't concerned at all about being placed on the physically unable to perform list.

"Throughout my whole college career, I never missed a game," Worthy said. "Played 30, 40 straight games. So when you get to this level and play through an injury situation, it can bring you down a little bit.

"I'm trying to work my butt off because I really feel like it's going to be a positive season for me, for us as a team. And I want to be a part of something like that."

Yet now, he'll need to do so somewhere else.

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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