- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2019

RICHMOND — On the bus ride to training camp, Landon Collins issued a playful warning to the team’s running backs. If they were to go low when practicing, he said, then the 25-year-old safety wouldn’t have a choice but to cut them underneath when going for a tackle.

Derrius Guice, though, responded with some light-hearted trash talk of his own.

“I said, ‘Bro, it’s practice, I’m not going to go low on you,” Guice recalled Thursday, “but I am going to make you look funny.”

With a red lollipop in his hand, Guice smiled and laughed as he recounted the instance. Because as it turned out, the 22-year-old running back stuck true to his word — using a mini spin move to get the best of Collins on the practice field. “You know I had to do it to him,” he said, laughing.

But on a larger scale, the play also represented something else entirely for Guice and the Redskins. After being sidelined for 11 months with an ACL injury, Guice’s move was a glimpse of what the Redskins had missed while the second-rounder focused on his rehab.

Guice was a full participant Thursday in Washington’s first training camp practice of the year. It marked the first time that Guice had been allowed to participate since suffering his knee injury in a preseason game last August.

Given the time it took for him to recover, Guice was excited to be back.

“It’s been a long year for me, man,” Guice said, later adding, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in life. Period. Doing what you love, finally getting here, finally making it to the NFL and first game, you’re out for the whole year, it’s just mindblowing.”

The circumstances surrounding Guice’s injury made it harder for the running back to accept. Not only did Guice tear his ACL in the first quarter of his first preseason game, but the running back didn’t even realize it initially. He first told reporters that he’d be fine — only to discover later with an MRI that his season was done.

Guice, too, was bothered by some of the discussion related to his injury. While a large majority of fans encouraged him to get better, Guice read other comments on social media from others saying that was he an injury-prone player. He didn’t understand. How could he be labeled as such when only 22?

Regardless of the narrative, Guice will have to prove he can stay healthy in the NFL. During his junior year at LSU, Guice was also hampered by a lingering knee injury — affecting his production. Fans further became alarmed when a report from a few weeks ago indicated Guice had hurt his hamstring during the offseason.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden, though, doesn’t appear to be concerned about Guice’s health. He said he wants Guice to work as much as possible, noting there’s a fine line between “babying them” and maintenance.

“Derrius has great energy for sure,” Gruden said. “He’s always bouncing around. Love his energy, passion for the game. You know, we were excited about that last year, it got cut short, but I think he’s been great as far as rehab is concerned. We’re hoping the other guys take suit.”

In some ways, an ACL injury isn’t seen as consequential as it used to be. Players like New England’s Tom Brady and Washington’s Adrian Peterson both have recovered from the surgery, the latter of whom rushed for a career-high 2,097 yards the year after his injury.

With Peterson on the roster, Guice said the veteran has been helpful in sharing advice on how to rehab and take care of his body. He shared how Peterson still has an “old-school” approach — wrapping ice bags around his legs instead of taking advantage of modern science like cryotherapy.

When Guice does return to game action, he will likely have to split carries with the 34-year-old, who had a surprising return to form last year with a 1,042-yard season. But Guice said he’s not worried about that, and instead is trying to stay healthy during camp.

There are days, after all, when Guice feels better than others. He acknowledged that sometimes he feels great, while there are other times when his leg feels sore. Guice, though, said he doesn’t mind the pain, adding it’s necessary in order to get better.

“I’m really a strong son of a gun,” Guice said when asked what he has learned over the last year. “A lot of guys wouldn’t be able to handle all that at such a young age, having to go through all this adversity.”

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