CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is mentally preparing as if he is playing this weekend against the Houston Texans.
On Thursday, Chase practiced for the first time since he suffered a back injury in the team’s Week 9 win over the Buffalo Bills. Chase missed the previous practice as he continues to deal with soreness from a hard fall in the team’s 24-18 victory against the Bills at Paycor Stadium.
But as the discomfort subsides, Chase presented a message of optimism about his availability for Cincinnati’s next game.
“In my head, I’m playing, you know what I’m saying?” Chase said after Thursday’s practice. “So until further notice and anything else, then we’ll see.”
Officially, Chase was a limited participant at practice, according to the team’s injury report. He said he ran routes on air and wanted to move on grass.
“Way better than [it felt] Monday,” Chase said. “Got a lot more movement, so it felt a lot better.”
The third-year receiver out of LSU said an MRI simply revealed a bruise and nothing more extensive. He doesn’t expect to do team drills Friday as he continues to give the injury as much time as possible to heal ahead of the weekend.
The status for Cincinnati’s other injured starting receiver is a bit murkier.
Tee Higgins did not practice Thursday after he was limited at Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury. Higgins deferred comment to coach Zac Taylor regarding his availability for Sunday’s game.
The fourth-year player who is in the final year of his rookie contract is coming off his best game of the season. Higgins had eight catches for 110 yards, both team highs, in Cincinnati’s win against Buffalo.
The Bengals (5-3) are looking to stay within striking distance of the Baltimore Ravens (7-2) in the race for the AFC North title. The two teams will play each other in Baltimore next Thursday.
A win over Houston will give Cincinnati five straight victories after the Bengals started the year by losing three of their first four games. Chase wants to make sure he can be a positive contributor for Cincinnati’s offense if he does play Sunday.
“I don’t mind being a decoy,” Chase said. “But at the same time, still gotta get a ball in my hand and gotta make a play with the ball at the end of the day. If I could do that, then I’ll be out there doing it.”
In other injury news, Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard didn’t practice for the second day. He is dealing with an ankle injury after last weekend’s game against Buffalo.