From the time they were selected by the Panthers in successive rounds in the 2016 draft, cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley have usually been discussed as a tandem.
They were among three corners drafted by former general manager Dave Gettleman, who was forced to shop hungry after rescinding Josh Norman’s franchise tag following the Super Bowl season of 2015.
Bradberry and Worley started a combined 54 games their first two seasons before Worley was traded to Philadelphia in March for wide receiver Torrey Smith.
While Bradberry was participating in the first day of the Panthers’ offseason workouts Monday, Worley was a man without a team after the Eagles cut him following his DUI and firearms arrest early Sunday morning in Philadelphia.
Bradberry said he sent Worley several encouraging text messages, the contents of which he didn’t want to share.
Worley faces six charges, including a firearms felony, after officers found him passed out in a car near the Eagles' practice facility. Worley began struggling with officers who woke him, and they used a Taser to subdue him, according to reports.
“I really don’t want to comment on that personally,” Bradberry said. “I’ll just let him and his family handle that.”
But Bradberry later spoke about his close friendship with Worley.
“That relationship goes beyond football. He’s going to always be my guy. We’re always going to be close, have a close bond,” Bradberry said during a phone interview. “But I’ve got to move on and understand this is my professional career. And that’s how I have to approach it every day.”
Bradberry is looking for big things this season after what he called a “sophomore slump” in 2017.
The former second-round pick from Samford finished with the same number of interceptions (two) and pass breakups (10) as his rookie season, although his 85 tackles (based on press box statistics) were more than any other corner in the league.
But Bradberry thought he could have had more picks and could have spent more time in the film room — two things that are not mutually exclusive.
None of the Panthers’ three primary corners in ’17 — Bradberry, Worley and Kevon Seymour, who split time with Worley during the first half of the season — had an interception until Week 14.
“I feel like I can put more hours in,” said Bradberry, adding that he hopes to become a “film junkie.”
“That way,” he said, “you can anticipate things happening and jumping routes.”
Pro Football Focus ranked all three of the Panthers’ corners in the “poor category” in 2017 – a label that Bradberry wouldn’t necessarily disagree with.
“I feel like I had a sophomore slump last year. So coming off that, I just got to approach it as it’s a huge year for me,” he said. “I want to go to the Pro Bowl. I want to be an All-Pro corner. Those are the goals that I aspire to achieve. I’ve got to make sure I put the time in the classroom, and also on the field doing extra work.”
A new group in secondary
Bradberry says he doesn’t know much about the new additions to the Panthers’ secondary — corner Ross Cockrell and safety Da’Norris Searcy, who will be competing for the spots vacated by Worley and Kurt Coleman, respectively.
The Panthers’ first choice to replace Worley was Bashaud Breeland, but the former Clemson corner failed his physical after cutting the heel of his left foot in the Dominican Republic, according to ESPN.
Bradberry took an offseason vacation to the Bahamas, but tried to keep his activities fairly low-key.
“I had a jet ski out there,” he said. “But I don’t go too wild on a jet ski. I’m not a speed demon.”
Bradberry, who ran a 4.5 in the 40 at the 2016 combine, is plenty fast enough to keep up with the Julio Joneses. And Panthers GM Marty Hurney believes Bradberry has the other characteristics — from his coverage skills to his businesslike approach — to be an elite corner.
“You look at corners and really all young players, it takes time,” Hurney said. “He took a step from year one to year two, and we expect him to take another step this year.”
Bradberry, 24, also expects to make a huge jump this season, which will be his first without Worley lining up opposite him.
Bradberry, a Birmingham, Ala., native who plays with a quiet confidence, is setting the bar high with talk of Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “I’m trying to be the top corner in the league.”