Sunday, May 8, 2022

Chiefs WR Justyn Ross addresses concerns about his health

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One of the most intriguing players attending this weekend’s Kansas City Chiefs rookie minicamp is wide receiver Justyn Ross.

Ross, a Clemson product who signed with the Chiefs after the 2022 NFL Draft, has all the talent you’d want to see in an NFL prospect. But that talent comes with some baggage that led to him not being drafted.

Ross was a playmaker during his first two seasons with Clemson. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he amassed 1,865 receiving yards on 112 catches — 16.6 yards per catch — and 17 touchdowns, according to Sports Reference.

Ross would be diagnosed with a congenital fusion in his spine in the spring of 2020, which doctors told him he would never play football again, according to ESPN’s Adam Teicher. The Clemson pass catcher would undergo surgery this year and sit out the 2020 season.

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During the 2021 season, which was his senior year of college football, Ross returned to football, catching 46 passes for 514 yards and 3 touchdowns. But a stress fracture in his foot hampered his game throughout the season.

With injuries plaguing him for the back end of his time at Clemson, Ross’ draft stock plummeted in 2022. Instead of being one of the top prospects in the draft, he wasn’t drafted. But the injuries weren’t enough to keep Ross out of the NFL entirely, evident by the fact that he’s on Kansas City’s 90-man roster.

With his foot in the door and a chance to prove he’s an NFL passcatcher, Ross met Chiefs media for the first time and asked questions about his health.

During his May 8 minicamp press conference, Ross was asked how close he was to full health.

“I’m feeling good,” Ross said.

If Ross can stay healthy, then the sky is the limit for someone who, as a freshman at Clemson, was the top wide receiver on a team that had Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow and Amari Rodgers. That’s why Ross was considered the biggest steal among the undrafted rookies in 2022 by Bleacher Report.

For Kansas City, signing Ross made all the sense in the world. Ross can and will compete for a spot on the list with no draft capital/big deal attached to him. This makes it easy for him to sever ties with him if injuries recur or if he just doesn’t live up to expectations. However, if Ross lives up to his full potential, the Chiefs will have found a diamond in the rough.

One of Ross’s former Clemson teammates, receiver Cornell Powell, was drafted by Kansas City in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. While Ross said Powell didn’t recruit him to join the Chiefs, he said Powell helped him transition from college football to the NFL. As for why Ross decided to sign with the Chiefs, he gave two reasons, one being quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the other being head coach Andy Reid.

Now that Ross is moving to defending champions AFC West, he has clear expectations for himself for his rookie year.

“Just put my foot in the door and do plays,” Ross said.

The Clemson product may be focused on the grind as he enters his freshman year in the league, but that doesn’t mean he’s unaware of how much he’s overcome to get to this point.

“It felt good, man,” Ross said of his feelings about being on the field for the Kansas City rookie minicamp. “Like you said, with what I was going to do [with my injuries], you never knew if I’d even be able to be out here, period. So it felt really good.”

The Clemson product may be focused on the grind as he enters his freshman year in the league, but that doesn’t mean he’s unaware of how much he’s overcome to get to this point.

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