Jerel Worthy injury concerns Packers

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Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, July 26, 2014

Any July injury report is sure to signal a statewide groan. Injuries were the story of 2013. Injuries have the head coach trying just about everything.

On Saturday, five players started training camp on the sideline. For now, only one appears serious.

Third-year defensive Jerel Worthy (lower back) is “going to be some time,” coach Mike McCarthy said. Meanwhile, two players on the physically unable to perform list—outside linebackers Nick Perry (foot/knee) and Mike Neal (abdomen)—“are close, based off the examination.”

On the training camp PUP list, both would be eligible to practice as soon as they pass their physicals.

Defensive lineman Letroy Guion is out with a hamstring injury, while rookie wide receiver Jeff Janis has an illness.

The timing is not ideal for Worthy. Since taking the Michigan State defensive end 51st overall in the 2012 draft, Green Bay has drafted Mike Daniels (2012, fourth round), Datone Jones (2013, first), Josh Boyd (2013, fifth) and Khyri Thornton (2014, third). A roster spot on the line, Worthy needed every possible rep this summer.

Possibly, Worthy suffered the injury while working out this off-season. He was not available in the locker room after practice, or during organized team activities and minicamp.

In two seasons, Worthy has played 16 games (starting two) with 24 tackles (12 solo) and 2 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 308-pounder tore his ACL in the 2012 regular-season finale, returning Nov. 24 of last season.

Neal's situation is much more promising, in part because this injury isn't anything new. He battled the core injury throughout last season.

The fifth-year pro initially missed eight practices and a preseason game to start the 2013 training camp. And down the stretch—even as he played in all 16 games—Neal was bothered by the core injury. Starting Nov. 13, he was listed with an abdomen injury and then sat out two practices each of the final five weeks.

Neal still managed to finish with 61 tackles (39 solo) and five sacks to earn a two-year, $8 million contract in the off-season.

“It's more or less a thing that gets sore sometimes,” Neal said. “I think it's just coming off the off-season program. We don't go too hard in the off-season. Then you come in and there's quick movements and stuff like that.

“Same as last year. I was back to normal in about a week.”

Asked if he'll be out a week or so, Neal added that “it might not even be that” after he meets with team physician Pat McKenzie today.

“As far as I'm concerned,” Neal said, “it's day to day how it feels.”

Unlike Perry and Worthy, Neal participated throughout OTAs and minicamp.

Hayward shines

Last summer (and fall and winter) was a nightmare for cornerback Casey Hayward. His hamstring injury lingered all camp and then he played only 87 snaps during the season.

Day 1 of this year's camp was a different story.

Hayward had the speed to stick with both tight end Andrew Quarless and wide receiver Davante Adams deep during team drills, and then jumped a route for another diving pass breakup.

“I thought Casey had a good day,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He's back. So instinctive, his ball skills, you can see him jump off the spot a few times and make a play.”

Lacy, Rodgers together again: More than any flashy off-season addition (Julius Peppers) or re-signing (Jordy Nelson), maybe the most welcome sight Saturday for the Packers was quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Eddie Lacy on the same field.

A year ago, the 2011 league MVP and 2013 rookie of the year played only six full games together. Now, they're hoping to become a pick-your-poison problem for defenses.

“It definitely makes it harder for them,” Lacy said. “They can't just play the run or the pass. They have to pretty much pick one or figure out a way to stop both. Having '12' back there definitely helps out a lot. It makes it tougher for defenses to stop us.”

As a rookie in camp last year, Lacy sometimes asked Rodgers his assignments right up to the snap. Now, he plays with a sense of calm.

The effect of a healthy Rodgers and healthy Lacy is difficult to gauge. Lacy didn't truly start churning until Week 5, after an up-and-down opener at San Francisco and concussion against Washington. Over the ensuing four-game stretch—all Packers wins—he rushed for 395 yards and two touchdowns.

By the time Rodgers returned in Week 17, Lacy was gritting through an ankle injury.

“So it's real tough to tell,” Lacy said. “But it's a completely different year. We get to be back there together this year, so we'll see how it goes.”

New TE for Rodgers: For the first time since 2007—when Brett Favre was the quarterback—tight end Jermichael Finley isn't in uniform. So life goes on with seven others competing at a wide-open position.

During the first day of practice, the coaches worked several players into 11-on-11 periods. Both Brandon Bostick and Quarless, who missed all spring, worked with the first team.

“That's a deep position and another one where we've had four guys in the past, kept four tight ends, it could be three,” Rodgers said. “It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

The quarterback added that he has spoken to Finley and the tight end “looks incredible.”

While noting the medical hurdle Finley has to clear with his neck injury, Rodgers added, “This league is better with Jermichael in it and this team is better with him in it.”

Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Last updated: 11:58 pm Saturday, July 26, 2014

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