Chase Young could not contain how happy he was to be back on the field Wednesday afternoon. He was dancing while he was stretching and in between drills.
After all, who could blame him? He just reached a milestone that has been a year in the making.
"It felt great just to be out there with my teammates," Young told reporters after practice. "Felt like I was part of the guys again."
Nearly one year after tearing his ACL against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Young was designated to return to practice, the team announced Wednesday morning. The decision starts Young's 21-day clock to return to the active roster, which would allow him to join a defensive line that is playing some of its best football.
There are still some hurdles to overcome for that to happen, but so far, things are headed in the right direction.
"He looked quick, he looked spry," Ron Rivera said. "He was excited, and again, we're gonna follow what the trainers and doctors tell us about this."
Prior to Wednesday, the plan was to make sure that Young was physically able to be on the field, even if that meant taking things slow out of caution, as the team did last week. Now, everything Young does is about getting in shape to make his 2022 debut.
That could take some time.
The moment will come eventually. Until then, Young will be relegated to running individual drills and participating in installation periods.
That might be frustrating to some, but for Young, it is the culmination of a lot of hard work.
"It was tough. I ain't gonna say it wasn't tough," Young said. "Obviously, it was the first serious injury I've had. Every day, it's a slow grind. Real slow."
Young described the initial struggles he had after getting surgery. He could not walk at all, so someone had to help him with nearly every part of his life. He eventually got crutches, but that presented its own challenges. Once he finished with rehab, all he could do was sit and wait for the next round the following day.
Every day was slow, but as he progressed through his recovery, he kept the mindset that "there's always light at the end of the tunnel."
"It gets dark just so your light can shine," Young said.
Young did a lot of soul searching while he recovered from his injury. He received constant inspiration from his dad, who he said "was always throwing me nuggets every couple of days" to make sure his son was OK.
The biggest thing he learned through the entire process was patience.
"Knowing that it's on God's time, not my time," Young said. "Things happen for a reason."
All the while, Young was making sure that he would be ready for his return. He never did anything too physical to avoid reaggravating his knee but was always working with his hands to make sure that he still retained some of his quickness and technique.
All that work and patience paid off on Wednesday. He looked unbothered by his knee injury, and he even participated on the scout team working with Charles Leno.
"I felt real good. I felt pretty springy," Young said. "Just getting back in motion, all the presnap reads and things like that. Just feeling like a football player again."
As for Young's availability on Sunday, Rivera said it would be "jumping the gun" to say that he would be ready to play against the Minnesota Vikings. Although Young said he has wanted to play since Week 1, Young echoed Rivera sentiment that he intends to follow the plan that was laid out for him.
"It's always that next day," Young said. "How my knee is gonna feel, how it's gonna recover. It's really just day-to-day."
With that said, Young is confident in his knee.
"It was really exciting for me to know that I'm getting back to doing what I love to do."
And when the time does come for him to step onto the game field, he knows he will be ready.
"If you know me, you know what my expectations are gonna be for myself," Young said. "It's coming. Just know it's coming."