CINCINNATI — Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst feels ready to return to the field.
Hurst said Wednesday’s practice yielded good progress. The Cincinnati starter, who has missed the past two games with a right calf injury, said he regained his confidence in his ability to operate with the injured leg as the team gets ready for this weekend’s game against the New England Patriots.
“I’m preparing like I’m playing on Saturday,” Hurst said.
Wednesday was Hurst’s first official practice since he suffered the injury Dec. 4 in the Week 13 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a limited participant, according to the team’s injury report.
Hurst left the game against the Chiefs late in the first quarter after he was the intended target on a downfield route.
He said that when he planted his foot and turned upfield on that play, he felt a pop in his calf. As much as he tried on the sideline, he was unable to continue. The difference between then and now was the reason for Hurst’s confidence in his recovery.
“When it first happened, I kind of felt that pinch every time I was trying to push off,” Hurst said. “I felt useless. Today, being able to push off and cut, have that burst a little bit, that’s where I want to be.”
The former first-round pick out of South Carolina signed a one-year contract with the Bengals this offseason with the hopes of proving he can be a solid starting option in the league. In a career-high 12 starts, he has 48 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He needs just eight catches to match his previous season high, which he set in 2020 with the Atlanta Falcons.
“We have multiple weapons,” Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said. “Hayden’s just another weapon we can use.”
Hurst is looking to rejoin a Bengals team that is 10-4 and could clinch its second consecutive playoff berth this weekend. A win over the Patriots (7-7) or a loss by the New York Jets (7-7) seals Cincinnati’s postseason bid.
The team’s starting tight end is eager to rejoin his teammates as quickly as possible.
“Sitting in the training room sucks,” Hurst said. “Every single opportunity, I want to be out there for it. I want to help this team. This team has done incredible things for me. I just want to be able to give back.”