CINCINNATI -- Ja’Marr Chase said he felt good last week in his return to practice, but with the long-term in mind, the Cincinnati Bengals star receiver asked coach Zac Taylor for another week before inserting him back in a game.
Nothing has been determined for sure; however, Chase said Wednesday he is preparing to play Sunday in a much-anticipated matchup with the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs (9-2). He planned to get his normal reps in practice this week and see how he feels, but his expectation is to play.
Chase missed four games because of a hairline fracture in his hip.
“I felt good moving around finally picking up speed running in a straight line, finally got some cuts in at the end of the week,” Chase said. “I felt good. … (But) I wanted to give myself another week of preparation for the next game if I had a chance to.”
The second-year wide receiver had played through the injury when it first happened. He said he hyperextended his right leg on his first touchdown against the Saints and that caused the hip fracture, but he didn’t realize the severity of the injury. He kept playing and scored another touchdown, a 60-yard reception from Joe Burrow with 1:57 left to win the game and finish with 132 yards receiving.
Chase said he tried to lift weights that following Wednesday and felt too stiff to do anything, but he felt OK by the end of the week so he played against the Falcons. He felt the hip pop right before halftime but adrenaline took over and he returned to finish with 130 yards receiving and two touchdowns. When he could hardly walk afterward, he knew something was wrong. That’s when he got X-rays and learned he had fractured the hip.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Chase said with a laugh. “My adrenaline was going and I just didn’t want to come, so I just stayed in.”
Taylor said the staff will do their best to make sure Chase is comfortable coming back this week before putting him on the field for a game.
The Bengals will be happy to have him back, though. They looked lost in their first game without Chase, when the Browns shut them down in a 32-13 blowout on Halloween. They’ve played some of their best offense in the three games since then, all wins.
Chase had 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions and 12 targets in the Week 17 matchup with Kansas City last season at home, a game that clinched the AFC North title for the Bengals.
“He’s one of the best in the league so when a guy like that comes back and enters your offense, it’s going to change the way defense’s play you,” quarterback Joe Burrow said. “… Just adds more explosiveness. He can score from any point on the field and teams know that. It adds a fear element.”
Chase has enjoyed watching the offense evolve in his absence and has no doubt he can help take the team to an even higher level in his return, especially with the offensive line playing the way it is now. He said it feels like “another piece to the puzzle.”
If he plays Sunday, he knows it isn’t all on him to make plays, but when he gets in a rhythm, he doesn’t believe even a fast, athletic defense like Kansas City’s can stop him.
“It’s gonna be a good game,” Chase said. “I know they have an all new, almost, secondary. A lot of rookie DBs. I know (L’Jarius) Sneed is back, they got new safeties, too, so it’s gonna be nice matchups, see how they game plan us, see what they come up with scheme wise and they’ve got to play us so we got to execute.”
Asked what enabled him to be so successful in the AFC North-clinching win last year, Chase said Taylor “just had a helluva gameplan” and he made plays when he touched the ball. The Chiefs limited him to 54 yards and one touchdown in the AFC Championship, which the Bengals won, 27-24 at Arrowhead Stadium to get to the Super Bowl.
Chase is just hoping everything goes as planned this week so he can be out there again Sunday. He did everything he needed last week to know he could be ready, except play in a game, but the extra week should help him feel more comfortable so he can better help his team.
“It just made me realize I can’t nothing for granted,” Chase said of the experience, which he called a boring few weeks at home when he was supposed to stay off his feet. “I can’t take everything in front of me for granted from now on.”
Chiefs at Bengals, 4:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530,102.7, 104.7
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