- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Seeking distraction from the somewhat weighty matter of where his life was headed, Bruce Perry went to an amusement park in New Jersey two weeks ago. The Philadelphia Eagles were making their final cuts, and the former Maryland running back was on the bubble despite a fine preseason.

Perry was walking toward a roller coaster billed as the biggest and fastest in the world when his agent called. Good news. Perry had indeed made the Eagles’ 53-man roster.

“I was ecstatic,” he said. “It was a long journey for me.”

Having settled that piece of business, Perry confronted another — the coaster, a gift-wrapped metaphor if there ever was one. When your football life has taken sharp, scary turns, gone up and then swiftly down and back up again, at least part of the way, who needs a giant contraption to provide the same experience?

No, he said, I’m not getting on that thing.

Yes, you are, his girlfriend said.

End of discussion.

“She dragged me,” he said. “I didn’t want to go and I wasn’t gonna go, but if I didn’t go, I would have suffered later.”

He closed his eyes, toughed it out and maintained harmony. It was a very good day.

But the next day, the long journey took yet another turn when his agent called again. This time the news wasn’t so good. Perry was yanked from the roster and waived after Philadelphia claimed Lamar Gordon from Miami. The Eagles wanted a bigger back. Gordon is 6-foot-1, about 230 pounds, Perry stands a shade over 5-9 and weighs 205.

Perry went unclaimed and landed on the Eagles’ practice squad, which means he can work out with the team but can’t play and can be released at a moment’s notice. He also took a big pay cut.

“Of course, I was disappointed,” he said. “My dream was to suit up against Atlanta [last Monday night]. But I’m still getting a paycheck.”

That’s Perry, Mr. Bright side. Compared to what he has been through, this latest setback was a day at the amusement park.

Maryland fans remember how he ran for nearly 1,300 yards and helped lead the Terrapins to the Orange Bowl as ACC Offensive Player of the Year in 2001.

They also remember the array of injuries that began in the bowl game and interrupted his play the next two seasons. It was always something — abdominal and groin injuries, a bad ankle sprain.

Perry said he probably tried to rush things to come back — Maryland wanted him back, too, of course — and that only made things worse. Compounding the frustration were the suggestions that he might have been a bit soft and definitely injury-prone.

“People liked to put the injury tag on me, not knowing I never had the opportunity to heal,” he said.

Like when he sprained his ankle during his senior year. He was told he would be out four to six weeks and ended up missing just two.

“We were playing Florida State,” he said by way of explanation.

Said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen: “He was just a hard-luck kid. No matter what happened, when things started going right, he got an injury.”

Hard luck? Perry even got hurt after his Maryland career. While working out for NFL scouts before the 2004 NFL Draft, he fell and separated his left shoulder. Once projected as a high draft pick, Perry dropped to the seventh round, where he was selected by the Eagles.

At least he was going home. Perry grew up in Philadelphia. His friends, parents, brothers and sisters, his girlfriend and daughter, who turns 3 tomorrow, are all nearby.

“Some players get to go home at the end of their careers,” he said. “I was lucky.”

Perry rehabbed his shoulder but re-injured it twice, went on injured reserve and missed all of last season.

“It was horrible to know the season was over, but at least I was gonna get it fixed,” he said.

Doesn’t anything get this guy down?

Perry returned healthy for training camp this year. He led the team in rushing during the preseason and impressed the coaches with how he gained the tough yards.

“I run bigger than what I look,” he said.

Said Friedgen: “I used to be on him about running north and south. He used to be an east-west guy.”

While preparing for Maryland’s game against West Virginia last week, Friedgen watched some old tape and was reminded of how good Perry was.

“He had a great burst of speed, great vision and great feet,” he said.

Perry said he and his coach had a “love-hate relationship,” which he attributes more to Friedgen’s demanding nature than anything personal.

“That’s how he is,” Perry said. “He had a way of getting under your skin. But I appreciate it now. It made me a stronger person. He was hard on me at times, but if I could deal with what the coach is throwing at me, I could deal with life.

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