June 12, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry (53) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (99) during the team

Jerel Worthy and Sean Richardson Return to Practice


Jerel Worthy (99) looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It has been awhile for both players. For Green Bay Packers safety Sean Richardson it’s been almost exactly a year. For defensive tackle Jerel Worthy it’s been a few weeks short of a full season.

Both Richardson and Worthy ended their rookie season in 2012 on the team’s injured reserve list. And now, for the first time in a long time, both players returned to the practice field on Wednesday.

For a Packers team riddled with injuries this season, potentially getting back two young defensive players is refreshing news.

After getting off to slow start, Worthy recorded 2.5 sacks his rookie season and carved out a role as a one of the team’s two down-lineman in the Packers’ subpackages. Worthy was drafted in the second round out of Michigan State in 2012 to help bolster the Packers interior pass rush.

When healthy, Worthy can do just that. However, a severe knee injury suffered late in the season sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Worthy hasn’t seen the practice field since the injury and has remained on the team’s physically unable to perform list (PUP).

Aug 30, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive back Sean Richardson (28) during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Chiefs 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 30, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive back Sean Richardson (28) during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Chiefs 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Richardson was a promising young safety with great size (6-2, 216) and athletic ability (4.43 speed). He had a strong preseason in 2012, leading the team with 16 tackles. He developed into a key special teams player five games into the season before injuring his neck in week twelve. The undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt not only missed the rest of the season, but many believed his career could be in jeopardy.

The Packers released Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins after he suffered a neck injury in 2011. It wasn’t unreasonable to believe they may do the same with Richardson.

However, it appears Richardson’s injury wasn’t as severe, and after sitting on the PUP list through the first 11 weeks of this season, the second-year safety was given the green light by team doctors to practice.

Both Worthy and Richardson will be able to practice with team the next two weeks before the Packers have to make a decision whether or not to take them off the PUP list and activate them to the 53-man roster or place them on IR for the remainder of the season.

Last year, the Packers placed Derek Sherrod on IR after he was on the PUP list and practiced briefly with the team at this point in the season. It’s not out of the question the Packers will decide to not to activate both Worthy and Richardson and put them on IR next week. Activating them would mean cutting two players already on the 53. Worthy and Richardson would not only have to show they’re healthy, but also prove they are more valuable to the team this year than some of the players currently on the roster.

Jerel Worthy (99) sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers are deep on the defensive line. It’s been a position of strength for them this season, and one of the only areas on the team not hit by the  injury bug. It would be difficult for Worthy to find a role on the defense this year given the production of Mike Daniels and the recent improvement of Datone Jones in the Packers’ subpackages.

The Packers may be more tempted to activate Richardson next week if he doesn’t look too rusty in practice. Green Bay needs help at safety. The loss to Philadelphia highlighted this point. Jerron McMillian is simply not ready. M.D. Jennings has failed to make plays. And Chris Banjo is still largely an unknown.

Maybe Richardson could be the answer here. He has all the tools to being a good safety in this league. However, he hasn’t taken a snap in nearly a year. I wouldn’t expect him to be inserted into the lineup any time soon.

Worthy and Richardson returning to practice this week is encouraging news. Now, it remains to be seen if the Packers will move them to the active roster by next week or if they’ll save these jars on the shelf for next season.

Tags: Green Bay Packers Jerel Worthy Sean Richardson