Chase Young was dancing among his teammates with a smile on his face as the Washington Commanders went through stretches before the first practice of minicamp.
That shouldn't be a surprise for anyone who has watched the 2020 No. 2 overall pick for the last four years, but the fact that he was on the field on Tuesday is enough of a reason for him to have an extra jump in his step.
Although this week of practice is called something different than OTAs, live contact and full speed drills are still not allowed until training camp in late July. However, it was hard to miss Young on the field as he breezed through drills during his first practice of the offseason.
That is certainly a welcome sight after Young spent almost all of the 2022 season on the sideline recovering from his knee injury, and the defensive end said there was a noticeable difference in how he felt on the field compared to his status at the end of last season.
"Night and day," Young told reporters after practice. "My confidence, my strength, everything."
Young, who tore his ACL and patellar tendon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2021 season, said he felt like his old self during practice, and his actions backed up his emotions. He was one of the first players to run through individual drills and did so with no hesitation or thought about his knee.
Rivera said that Young would "absolutely" be part of the starting lineup now that he was back on the field, and sure enough, he was there alongside Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat for the blitz period of practice.
Young flaunted the same speed and quickness that fans have come to expect from him, but his confidence was what stood out the most. That was one of the main sticking points behind him taking so long to be back out on the field last season. None of those reservations were present during plays, as he rushed into offensive linemen and matched up against Charles Leno.
As for expectations, head coach Ron Rivera wants to see Young "pick up where he left off."
"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," Rivera said. "And that's probably the biggest thing for him."
The Washington Commanders were on the field for the first day of minicamp. Check out the top photos from the afternoon.
When asked whether there are any lingering issues with Young's knee, Rivera said they would find out at practice, but there weren't any hints of worry from the head coach.
"I'm pretty confident though because he looked good. He really did. I know the doctors were all positive about everything he's done and again, I know part of the reasoning of him not being around is he wanted to really focus in on just that specifically and he wanted to do that."
Assuming Young can get back to the form that helped him win Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, his presence should help elevate a defense that was 12th in sacks last season. He recorded 7.5 sacks as a rookie but plays like the forced fumble against Joe Burrow at the 1-yard line and the fourth down stop against the Pittsburgh Steelers during that season are evidence that he influences the game beyond just getting to the quarterback.
There are still several steps for Young to take before the regular season, but Tuesday's practice was a good start.
"I felt pretty explosive out there," Young said.