Chase Young ‘just ready to play’ after having fifth-year option declined

ASHBURN — The biggest tell that Chase Young was back at practice Tuesday wasn’t the pass rusher’s flowing long hair, or the brace wrapped around his surgically repaired knee. Nor was it the defensive end’s burst off the line of scrimmage, for that matter. 

Rather, teammates could tell Young returned by his singing. 

Just don’t ask them to judge it. 

“Hey, my name Bennett and I ain’t in it,” linebacker Jamin Davis said.

Between individual drills, Young could be heard singing the lyrics to Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s “How It Feels.” And during another song, the pass rusher started to mix some dance moves into his repertoire just to keep things light. But when it came time to take his rep, Young was all business.

Washington’s mandatory minicamp started Tuesday, and Young appeared for the three-day session as expected. Before then, though, the 24-year-old missed the last two weeks of voluntary practices after the Commanders opted to decline his fifth-year option that would have guaranteed Young nearly $17.5 million in 2024. Without contractual security beyond this season, Young and teammate Montez Sweat chose to train elsewhere until they were required to report back to the team for minicamp.

Speaking to reporters, Young said he wasn’t disappointed his option was declined and appeared not to be concerned about his future. 

“I’m just focused on myself and I’m ready to play,” Young said. 

Young hasn’t done a lot of playing over the last two years. After tearing his ACL and rupturing his patellar tendon in November 2021, Young didn’t make his season debut last year until there were three games left in the season. 

The serious knee injury also caused the Commanders to limit Young’s workload once activated as he played in only 65% of the team’s snaps across those three weeks. By contrast, Young played in nearly 78% of Washington’s snaps in his rookie year when available. 

Even now, more than 18 months after the injury, the Commanders have been focused on Young’s knee. Asked if the former Defensive Rookie of the Year is now fully healthy, coach Ron Rivera said he was pretty confident based on feedback from Young’s doctors, but added the “proof will be in the pudding” by how well the Ohio State product does in practice. The injury — along with the lack of production — were reasons why Washington declined Young’s option.

This offseason, Rivera has tried to downplay Young’s absences. The coach said Tuesday he wouldn’t punish anyone for missing a voluntary session, telling reporters Young “absolutely” would work with the starters upon return. 

But Young missing time has drawn scrutiny ever since the pass rusher skipped out on sessions in 2021 to film commercials and a television show. Young downplayed his absence by telling reporters “I was making that money, baby”  but the topic became a focal point when Young got off to a slow start that season with only 1 ½ sacks in 10 games.

This offseason, Young worked in Colorado at the same facility he spent rehabbing his knee in 2022. 

“We just want to see him pick up where he left off (from the end of last season),” Rivera said. “He was starting to play faster and faster and just love to see him get out there and really run around and kind of cut loose and not be tentative. And that’s probably the biggest thing for him.” 

During several points of Tuesday’s practice, Young tugged on his right knee brace between drills. Young said he wears the piece of equipment just to be safe given the severity of his prior injury, telling reporters “It’s on me” when asked if it would be gone by the time the season starts in September. 

Still, Young says there’s a “night and day” difference in how he feels compared to the end of last season. That’s reflected, he said, in his confidence and strength, which he said was the result of the work he put away from the facility. 

“Explosive work, plyometric — shoot, everything you think you can do to a knee, I did,” Young said of his rehab, later adding he felt “pretty explosive” at practice.

If Young returns to form next season, the Commanders would possibly be in a difficult situation. Young, in the final year of his contract, would be poised to cash in — and the Commanders will have to decide whether to pay him or let him walk after having already paid defensive tackles Jonathan Allen (four years, $72 million) and Daron Payne (four years, $90 million). 

Rivera has said he hopes declining Young’s fifth-year option serves as motivation in the same way that a lack of contract talks for Payne last season paved the way for a career year.  But asked whether he could use the decision as fuel, Young said he could use “a lot of things” as motivation.  

“All of them, they’re stuck in my back pocket,” Young said, with a smile. 

Source: WT