Young will play in a limited role when the Commanders (7-6-1) play at San Francisco (10-4) Saturday. It's a pivotal game for Washington, which holds the seventh and final playoff spot with three games remaining.
"It's now," coach Ron Rivera said, announcing Young's return to the lineup.
Young tore his right ACL and ruptured the patellar tendon in a Nov. 14 game vs. Tampa Bay last season. The tendon rupture lengthened his recovery. There have been times in the past several weeks when the team, and Young, had optimism early in the week, only for it to subside after several days of practice.
They wanted to see him push off his leg with confidence, giving him the ability to take on blockers and double teams. But what they often saw was hesitation. On Sunday, Young met with Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery. Andrews told him the knee was good.
At that point, Washington knew Young almost assuredly would make his debut vs. the 49ers. They just wanted to get through the week to make sure.
"Seeing Dr. Andrews was the final thing to get him over the hump," Rivera said. "He practiced with confidence. He showed us his willingness to stick that leg in the ground and roll off of it, plant it and cut off it. He had a good week so we're pretty excited about that."
Young will be limited to approximately 12 to 16 snaps, Rivera said.
On Wednesday, Young said, "Every day I feel I'm getting better. Every day I feel like I'm getting stronger and more comfortable."
Young returned to practice on Nov. 2 and was activated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 21. Two days after that, Young was asked what he'd add when he returned.
"Chase Young," he said.
He later said he can still be impactful in limited snaps.
"Shoot, 16 plays, one of them could be the play of the game, you just never know," he said. "However many snaps, I'll be prepared."
Young was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 when he finished with 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries -- including one for a touchdown vs. the 49ers. But last season, he managed just 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles before getting hurt.
He'll return to a defensive line that has fueled a lot of Washington's success. Defensive tackle Jon Allen was named a Pro Bowl starter while fellow tackle Daron Payne (first alternate) and end Montez Sweat (second alternate) garnered mention as well.
"It's not like we are bringing in a guy off the street and you got to fit him in," defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina said earlier this month. "Chase has been here for three years now. It's nothing new. It's just another tool. That's all it is."