Chase Young was surrounded by his fellow defensive linemen at the start of the Washington Commanders' Wednesday practice, and they were all cheering about one of their leaders returning to the field after nearly a year-long road to recovery.
It was clear that Young, who was designated to return to practice by the team yesterday, was delighted to be back with his teammates. He often had a smile on his face during the portion of practice open to the media, and he was dancing to the music that blared across the field during stretches and individual drills.
And based on his teammates' reaction in the locker room, they were just as psyched to have Young back in their company.
"To have him back on the field suited up, it's gonna be really exciting," said quarterback Taylor Heinicke. "Obviously, he's a great player and he brings that extra juice, so we're all excited for him."
Extra juice is the biggest thing Young can provide to his teammates right now. Young is participating in positional drills and installation periods, but he will not be overly active in team drills while his conditioning improves. He did, however, get some action on the scout team working against Charles Leno.
"He gave me some real good sets just to get back into it," Young said.
Not that being limited to providing his teammates with an extra jolt is a bad thing. In fact, that has been one of Young's most valuable qualities since his rookie season, and it played a factor in making him a captain in the second half of the season.
Safety Kamren Curl, who was part of Washington's 2020 draft class with Young, is excited for the defensive end to provide that again.
"Not just his play, but the energy he brings and just his presence out there I feel like will give the defense a real big boost," Curl said.
Chase Young was back on the field as the Washington Commanders began their prep to extend their win streak against the Minnesota Vikings. Check out the top photos from Wednesday's practice. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Cheering on his teammates has always been something Young is more than happy to do. While he has not been practicing prior to this week, he has been engaged and makes his presence felt on the sideline.
"He brings that same type of energy and you guys see it through training camp and during the games," Heinicke said. "Obviously, he's not suited up. He's not playing, but he's part of the team and he wants to do everything he can to help the team in any way he can."
And while Young's teammates know he is a tremendous athlete, they value him just as much for who he is off the field.
"He's a tremendous athlete, tremendous football player, but an even better person," Leno said. "He and I have a lot of conversations outside of football. And I know he's a really good person, and he's really excited to get back."
Of course, Young would prefer being in the action rather than watching from afar. There have been moments where he has been particularly anxious to get back on the field, and many of them have come during the team's three-game win streak.
"Just like last game," Young said, referring to Washington's 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts. "I'm glad to see how my team, teammates, how they can overcome adversity. We got it done. But that was definitely one I definitely wish I could have played in if I was healthy."
And Young's fellow defensive linemen would rather have him on the field as well. The group is playing some of its best football, as it has accounted for 16 of the defense's 21 sacks, which is more than 12 other teams.
"It's self-explanatory. You see what he does on the field," Payne said. "I'm excited to see him get back in the rotation with us. I know everyone is excited to see him back, so it's going to be fun."
And while Young's 2021 season was cut short, his teammates know what kind of impact he can have.
"The full season he played, he was the Defensive Rookie of the Year," Curl said. "He's a real big difference maker."
Young's return to the practice field is a tremendous personal accomplishment, one that he has been working towards for months. He does not know when he will be back in a game, but he is electing to be patient.
Being back playing the sport he loves was certainly a big reason why Young was so happy yesterday, but being around his teammates was a big piece of that as well.
"I was part of the guys again," Young said.