In his first public appearance at the team facility since January, all Chase Young could do was watch. The Washington Commanders’ star defensive end emerged from the building with about a half-hour remaining in practice Wednesday; yelled, “Tezzz!” to teammate and close friend Montez Sweat; and positioned himself near defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, listening to the coach’s calls, as the team lightly scrimmaged.
Young, who tore the ACL in his right knee Nov. 14, said his recovery is going well but wouldn’t give a timetable on his return to practice.
“I’m taking it one day at a time,” the 23-year-old said. “Obviously, if I can go fast, I’m going to go fast, you know what I’m saying? If [I] go too fast, they pull the reins back on me.”
Standing on the turf field, Young pointed to a scar on his left knee and offered new details about the injury and his recovery. During the operation, he said, famed sports surgeon James Andrews used a graft from his left patellar tendon to reconstruct the ACL in his right knee. That differs from an ACL repair, in which the torn ligament is reattached to the bone, and often comes with a shorter recovery.
In April, tight end Logan Thomas told 106.7 the Fan that, after tearing the ACL, the medial collateral ligament and both menisci in his left knee Dec. 5, he had a different surgery than Young had. Even though Young injured his knee three weeks earlier, Thomas added, they were on similar timelines because Young “had to rehab … both of his legs.”
“I never really had problems with [the left leg] ever,” Young said Wednesday. “It was just a little graft, and nothing was ever torn or anything. … It’s good.”
In addition to rehab, Coach Ron Rivera said Young’s return to the facility was important for team leadership. Last spring, Young, a captain, was the only player to skip all voluntary organized team activities, and when he then struggled on the field, Rivera called it “an awakening.” Now, he suggested, Young again has to demonstrate his ability to step up when the team needs him.
“It’s a lot easier to lead, obviously, when things are easy,” Rivera said. “But when things are tough, it’s being able to find the right style of leadership — and that, I think, is important as well. So there’s a lot of things that he can glean from being out here and watching and seeing how things are happening.”
“Today would’ve been a great day — an easy day — to lead,” he continued. “It’s when it’s the doldrums, it’s a drag. It’s hard to be out there, practice isn’t going well and you’re not having success on either side of the ball — and that’s the side that gets low. How do you build it back up?”
A reporter asked Young whether voluntary OTAs felt mandatory this year.
“It was really just my plan that we had with Dr. Andrews, my trainer in Colorado [Chris Knott] and the trainers here,” he said. “Just the best plan to bring me back to 100 percent.”
While he’s in Ashburn, Young will rehab with Commanders head athletic trainer Al Bellamy, one of his first high-profile assignments since he was hired in April. But Young is still following the big-picture plan laid out months ago.
After Young tore his ACL against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he waited about a week for the swelling to subside before having surgery, according to Ian Thomas, his manager. Andrews conducted the operation at his facility in Pensacola, Fla., and Young spent about six weeks rehabbing at the Andrews Institute in nearby Gulf Breeze.
In mid-January, Young traveled to Colorado Springs, where he began training with Knott, a former strength and conditioning coach for professional and college teams who opened a private practice called Dunamis Health and Performance. For the rest of the offseason, Knott traveled with Young and Thomas. They were in Los Angeles for Young’s commercial shoots, in Las Vegas when Young announced a pick at the NFL draft and in Virginia when Young spent time with teammates during the first two phases of the team’s offseason program.
“I'm running,” Young said. “I've squatted some substantial amount of weight. I ain't gonna put no numbers out there, but everything is going as planned.”
During scrimmages, John Bates caught two fourth-down conversions. OTA practices don’t mean much — as safety Bobby McCain emphasized Wednesday — but the second-year tight end continued to produce while Thomas is sidelined. Quarterback Carson Wentz also found rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson several times, particularly on screens, as the two develop a rapport.
Defensively, the Commanders continued to rely nearly exclusively on two-linebacker sets — with Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis on the first team and David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson on the second team.
After Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) criticized D.C.’s mayor and council chairman for a lack of unity Tuesday, saying it has prevented her from introducing legislation that would allow the city to gain control of the RFK Stadium site, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) pointed the finger back at her Wednesday.
“We’re counting on the congresswoman to [get control of the land],” she said.
Bowser, one of the biggest advocates among city officials for the Commanders to return to D.C., also expressed concern about the state of the team. She said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who has said he will support the team’s return if the NFL releases the findings of its sexual harassment investigation of the franchise, “has made some good points, that I share, about the situation with the team and those issues needing to be resolved.”
But she added that’s a separate issue from the city acquiring the land.
Was able to follow up with Mayor Bowser on this story today. On Del. Eleanor H. Norton's "stuck up stupid" line, Bowser says, "I don't really know what she was referring to. I've had conversations with the congresswoman and that certainly hasn't been her sentiment." (1/6) https://t.co/pQNEufhG8d— Michael Brice-Saddler (@TheArtist_MBS) June 1, 2022
Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.