Chase Young doesn't know exactly what he needs to see or feel to know he's ready to play football again.
"I’m just going to have to feel it," he said.
Young isn't there yet, though the star pass rusher has returned to the Washington Commanders practice facility to continue rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. The 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year did not take part in on-field workouts and remains on track in his recovery plan, but it's too soon to know when he'll be back on the practice field and fully healthy.
“I wouldn’t put a timetable on it,” Young said Wednesday. "Obviously I want to be back there as fast as I can, but right now I’m just taking it one day at a time and I’m getting better fast. I know that. Just taking it one day at a time. I can’t rush it.”
There's no real rush since the season opener against Jacksonville is still three months away. The Jaguars game marks roughly 11 months since Young injured his knee and just short of that since he had ACL reconstruction surgery, which included grafting part of the patellar tendon from his left knee to fix the tear.
Young brushed off concern about needing to rebuild trust in two legs instead of one, though the more complicated surgery could explain why he, trainers, surgeon Dr. James Andrews and team doctors are taking a cautious approach.
“Everything is going as planned,” Young said. "I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m confident on everything I’m doing going forward.”
Young missed the first week of voluntary organized team activities while working out at a facility in Colorado, which the 23-year-old Ohio State product said was also part of the plan because of “tools and gadgets” there designed to get him back fast.
“As long as he is getting his rehab done, I think that’s important,” offensive tackle Charles Leno said. "We need him for Sunday at the end of the day. So whether it is here or Indonesia, I don’t care where it's at.”
Still, it was particularly important for Young to be present for offseason workouts this time after skipping them when healthy a year ago, when he cited other obligations. Young had 1½ sacks in eight-plus games last season before getting injured, struggles that contributed to Washington's 2-6 start when the defense didn't live up to lofty expectations.
Young spent part of Wednesday's practice time inside the Commanders facility, but also was out on the field close to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio so he could hear signals and watch his teammates take snaps. He cheered on friend and fellow edge rusher Montez Sweat, and his presence was notable as a team leader.
“Having one of your veteran players, one of your leaders out and around in spite of the fact that he’s rehabbing, it’s good,” coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s seeing the installations and seeing the tape afterwards, giving (Young) an opportunity to listen to the coaches as they point out the things that are happening that are good and bad. You can learn from that.”
Young should learn from his sophomore slump going into his third professional season, but any progress on that front won't be visible until September. His presence at OTAs appears to be a step in the right direction after Rivera sensed an “awakening” from Young since last season.
Now the focus is on making sure Young can get back to being 100% when it matters.
“I’m not the doctor,” Rivera said. “The doctor is pleased with it. There is a plan, they’re working on that plan, and we’ll see where he is once we get ready for training camp.”
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