Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young will miss the season opener and possibly longer, Coach Ron Rivera said Friday after training camp practice.
The news isn’t surprising given Young’s inability to participate in organized team activities or minicamp. Young’s November ACL surgery was extensive, and Rivera has said the team is playing it safe with his return.
The Commanders have several options for handling Young’s delayed start:
1. They can add him to the 53-man roster after cutdowns in late August and play him when he’s ready.
2. They can start him on the PUP list, which would mean he would not count against the roster cap. He would have to miss at least four games before returning, but he would be allowed to participate in team meetings.
3. They can start him on injured reserve, which also would require him to miss at least the first four games. The team would then have a three-week window in which it could activate Young or leave him on IR.
Young tore the ACL in his right knee in Week 10 last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He indicated to reporters this year that the ACL had been reconstructed, with the torn ligament removed and replaced with part of the patellar tendon from his other knee.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time with an ACL tear, the ligament is reconstructed," said Clint Soppe, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. "A repair [a less invasive surgery to reattach the torn ligament] is extremely rare, and it’s only been done more recently. ... Almost every high-level athlete who has an ACL tear gets a reconstruction.”
Soppe, who did not treat Young, said recovery times can vary, especially if the patient has suffered damage to surrounding tissues. But, on average, most pro athletes need about nine to 12 months.
The lengthy recovery is due largely to two reasons, according to Soppe. One, the injured knee needs time to rebuild muscle. Two, it usually takes about a year for the tendon to transform into a ligament.
“Most athletes will return to the same level of play, but not all," Soppe said. "Positions that are more significant in terms of side-to-side motions, cutting, speed, agility, that’s going to be harder with an ACL tear.”
Young had surgery in late November. A return in Week 5 would make for a nearly 11-month recovery.
Young spent time in Colorado Springs for his rehabilitation during the summer. In Ashburn, over the first three days of camp, he has observed practice and worked with trainers on the side field.
“It was a serious injury, obviously, with surgery, and he’s doing everything he’s supposed to,” Rivera said. “He’s on time as far as where the doctors think he should be, and as he gets better and better, we can update you. But right now, he’s right where he needs to be.”
More fans in Ashburn
Fan turnout improved significantly compared with Thursday. The Commanders hosted multiple military veterans, including one who spoke to the team in the huddle following practice.
1st Sgt. Cedric King, a double amputee, celebrated “his 10 years of life,” Rivera said.
“He had a life-altering experience in the Middle East,” the coach added. “I’ve known him for a long time. … And he had a nice message for our players. Just when you don’t think you can, you can. It was about pushing through, persevering. I thought it was a very good message for our players.”
Almost all wore the team’s new gear, and many brought Fatheads of their favorite players. A cluster of fans along the sideline even chirped at players.
When wide receiver Dax Milne caught a pass along the right sideline, those fans yelled, “Mr. Steal Your Girl!” referencing recent headlines about his former college teammate and friend Zach Wilson, now the quarterback for the Jets. They also begged cornerback Kendall Fuller to get interceptions, pleaded with Carson Wentz to keep his throws down and at one point yelled to the whole offense, “We need a completion!”
Running back Antonio Gibson (hamstring) worked on the side field, just as he did the first two days of camp. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel participated in warmups and individuals but was limited in team drills. Rivera said the team is trying to be cautious with him and prevent lingering issues from the groin and hamstring injuries he dealt with last season.
Guard Trai Turner didn’t practice because of a quadriceps injury, according to Rivera, and others — including tight end John Bates and defensive back Troy Apke — were dealing with nicks and bruises.