Wilson’s return from injury ‘critical’ for Bengals’ defense

Baltimore Ravens running back Le'Veon Bell (17) applies a stiff arm on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Baltimore Ravens running back Le'Veon Bell (17) applies a stiff arm on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

When Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson was carted off the field during the Week 13 loss to the Chargers, he wasn’t sure if he would get back on the field this year.

The team doctor that initially evaluated his injured shoulder said it was “a high probability” that he would need surgery, but it wasn’t 100 percent.

A small percentage chance he could return was all he needed, and in surprising fashion, Wilson made his comeback last week. He played every defensive snap and helped the Bengals secure the AFC North title with a win over the Chiefs, and now they have one last dress rehearsal for the playoffs Sunday at Cleveland.

“I just thought to myself like that’s all I need is that little percentage,” Wilson said of the original prognosis. “They’re saying there’s a chance that I cannot have surgery so I’m gonna do everything in my power to rehab it the right way. I eat really healthy, but I also tried to limit foods that were gonna inflame my body so it gives my shoulder the best chance to heal and let the rest go to what my Lord wanted to happen. Just took it one day at a time and here we are.”

Wilson went from being what coach Zac Taylor classified as “highly doubtful” last Monday to a full participant in practice two days later. He said a soft tissue massage helped loosen up the shoulder and he felt good enough to play.

The second-year player and 2020 third-round draft pick didn’t skip a beat in his return and was part of a defense that limited the second-highest scoring offense in the league to three points in the second half while the Bengals made their comeback.

Most surprising was that tight end Travis Kelce managed just 25 yards on five catches against the Bengals, who have struggled against elite tight ends at times this season. Wilson played a big role in that, even if at times just through his leadership in the middle of the field as the defense’s signal communicator.

Wilson finished second on the team with eight total tackles.

“I thought he moved around really well, and it was good to see him back out there and that was a big game to have him back,” Taylor said. “The style of game that that was, his abilities in coverage and communication wise were critical. I thought he played physically. There were plenty of examples where he had to shed blocks and I thought he looked really good doing it so you could see that it looked like he had a lot of confidence in his shoulder. It was probably good for him to check that box, play a physical game like that and play those amount of snaps, and you know, now we will be smart with him this week with how we practice him and play him and make sure that he’s ready to go for the playoff game.”

The timing of his return also was important with Germaine Pratt on the COVID-19 list, though Wilson and Taylor both indicated the two weren’t related. Wilson was more concerned with having a chance to make an impact on a meaningful game.

“It was great,” Wilson said. “It was everything I could’ve asked for in my return to come back and clinch the AFC North. Those three weeks that I was out were tough. Just having to watch from the sidelines. It’s something you never want to experience, but it gives you a little more hunger to get back healthy.”

Wilson said he had some “typical” soreness after the game, which was expected after missing three weeks. He wasn’t sure what kind of role he would have Sunday, if any, but the Browns likely will be attacking the midfield of the field with their running game, which features the league’s third leading rusher with Nick Chubb sitting at 1,201 yards.

Chubb has been battling through a rib injury but was removed from the injury report Friday and cleared to play Sunday. There is still a chance coach Kevin Stefanski takes it easy on him in a meaningless game. The Browns already have declared Baker Mayfield done for the season.

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Browns, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1290, 1530, 95.7, 102.7, 104.7

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