ASHBURN, Va. — Despite suffering injuries in the preseason, Terry McLaurin and Chase Young have a shared Week 1 agenda: To play.
“That’s my plan,” said McLaurin, the Washington Commanders top wide receiver.
With Magic Johnson in attendance, McLaurin returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury in the team’s second preseason game on Aug. 21. The Pro Bowler dressed with pads, and — although he was officially listed as limited — said he participated with no limitations and is “confident” he’ll play in the opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Young, who has been unavailable for full practices since leaving Washington’s Aug. 11 preseason opener with a stinger, also received a “limited” tag. Though he’s bullish about playing before a sellout crowd at FedExField this week — “I’m ready to go,” he said — hurdles remain for the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Young has not been cleared for contact despite two recent meetings with doctors. The 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year said a video conference meeting with doctors is scheduled for this week.
The Wednesday injury report pic.twitter.com/I3EIx3dy1t
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) September 6, 2023
Resting both might be prudent considering the nature of McLaurin’s nagging injury, Washington’s defensive line depth beyond Young and that the Cardinals are pegged by analysts to have one of the league’s worst records. However, the Commanders aim to start fast this season after early struggles in each of head coach Ron Rivera’s three campaigns.
It’s also not in McLaurin’s nature to sit. He played in Washington’s 2020 wild-card playoff game with a high-ankle sprain and has appeared in 36 consecutive games.
“I want to be able to know that I can burst, cut, run, be my normal self,” McLaurin said. “I’ve played through ailments before, so I know the difference between a little sore and you just can’t go. … But I’m feeling pretty good. I’m confident with where things are right now. … I’m a fighter, so I want to be out there with my guys.”
The confidence extended to the head coach.
“Terry looked really good,” Rivera said. “He took the reps we had listed for him, and he looked good.” The hope is McLaurin builds on Wednesday’s work as the week progresses.
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) September 6, 2023
Regarding Young, Rivera said, “He’s doing everything he can to get himself ready to play.” The team designated specific practice periods where the edge rusher could participate.
“It’s going to be all up to what happens with the doctor visit that he has coming up soon,” Rivera said, “and we’ll go from there. … If he’s cleared, he will go.”
Additional inspiration came from Johnson, a limited partner in Washington’s new ownership group. The NBA legend spoke to the team before practice. Usually, practices start on time. This time, a delay of roughly 20 minutes occurred as Johnson shared stories from his athletic past. Nobody took issue.
“Guys were excited to have him here today,” McLaurin said. “Coach Rivera asked some of the leaders how they felt about that, and of course, we welcomed that opportunity to talk to him but also hear his story. And he took a lot of really good questions. I love how transparent he is, along with Mr. (managing partner Josh) Harris.”
Most players on Washington’s roster were not born when Johnson officially retired in 1996. That includes 22-year-old starting quarterback Sam Howell.
“He’s been through so many different teams, not only as a player but as an owner, and won so many championships on both sides of it,” Howell said, “so he definitely knows what it takes. It’s fun to have him here.”
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Rivera appreciated the players’ engagement with the three-time league and Finals MVP.
“A couple of guys asked, ‘What’s a championship team? What’s the characteristics of it?’ Just listening to his answers, our guys, you could tell they really bought into it and understood exactly what he was talking about,” Rivera said. “It’s funny. It’s kind of like being a parent. You can tell your kid all you want, but ’til someone like Magic says it, then it means something.”
“Honestly, it’s just an honor,” Young said of meeting the five-time NBA champion. “To have Magic Johnson here … it was a real good message. Basically, he told us we’re all as one, we’re going to hold each other accountable and we’re going to do what’s best for the team.”
Washington’s imposing defensive line enters Week 1 without all of its options, whether Young is cleared or not. The team placed defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis and defensive end Efe Obada on injured reserve last week. If Young does not play, James Smith-Williams — the primary replacement last season when Young missed the opening 14 games following knee surgery — would likely fill in against a Cardinals offense that is expected to start newly acquired Josh Dobbs at quarterback.
Tight end Logan Thomas, who missed most of training camp with a calf injury, was not on Wednesday’s injury report. Punt returner Dax Milne is limited with a groin injury, creating the possibility that Jamison Crowder will be elevated Sunday after signing to the practice squad Wednesday.
(Photo of Chase Young: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)
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