As it turns out, Hayden Hurst will not make his return this week, as he’s been ruled out vs. the Patriots due to his lingering calf injury.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst knows all about second chances.
In January of 2016, while he was a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina, Hurst attempted suicide.
“I woke up in the hospital,” Hurst said in an interview with First Coast News in 2020. “I didn’t know what happened. I had to have a friend fill me in. Apparently, I had been drinking and went into my apartment and cut my wrist. My friend found me in a puddle of blood. He called 911.”
“For whatever reason, God looked down on me and gave me a second shot at this thing,” Hurst later recalled. “And I made a promise, I’m going to make the most of this opportunity.”
He went on to become a first-round selection of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft. In that same draft, the Ravens took Mark Andrews in the third round. Andrews made the Pro Bowl in 2019, and Hurst became an after thought.
When the Atlanta Falcons lost tight end Austin Hooper to free agency in 2020, they happily traded a second-round pick to Baltimore for Hurst, and he responded with 56 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns in his first season.
The Falcons selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Hurst was once again the odd man out. Which was fine with the Cincinnati Bengals, who grabbed Hurst in free agency this year with a one-year $3.5 million contract, which included a $2 million signing bonus.
And Hurst has responded. Before suffering a calf injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13, Hurst had 48 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Hurst told ESPN’s Ben Baby earlier in the year. “I just didn’t think I got to show everything in Atlanta. That’s why it’s kind of been fun coming here and creating chemistry with Joe [Burrow] and all these guys. Having the coaches believe in me, it’s been cool.”
Now, Hurst is ready to get back on the field, and hopes to be in the lineup when Cincinnati travels to New England Saturday afternoon.
“I’m preparing like I’m playing on Saturday,” Hurst said Wednesday after participating in his first official practice since the injury on December 4.
He hopes to re-join a Bengals team that has already earned a playoff berth, but is fighting for their second consecutive AFC North Division title and potentially the top seed in the AFC, which would give them home-field advantage throughout the post-season.
“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.”
The way things look, he will get another chance to do just that on Saturday.