Maryland running back Bruce Perry believes he has recovered completely from groin, abdominal and shoulder injuries that kept him sidelined for much of last season and is ready to return to the level that made him a standout in 2001.
"I'm 100 percent," said Perry, who is back atop the depth chart heading into the 2003 season. "I've been out here every day."
Through 2 1/2 weeks of spring practice, Perry has made a strong impression on Terrapins Coach Ralph Friedgen, who hopes the rising senior can return to previous form. As a sophomore in 2001, Perry rushed for 1,242 yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. He was named ACC offensive player of the year and was one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.
"I think he's just the same, maybe even better," Friedgen said.
Friedgen and Perry hope that the player has moved past a difficult junior season that was riddled with injuries. The problems started as the Terrapins prepared for the Orange Bowl after the 2001 season, when Perry began feeling sharp discomfort in his abdomen. After visiting a series of specialists, the injury was diagnosed as calcification of abdominal tissue, which was broken up by ultrasound treatments. However, Perry was not able to stay healthy, tearing his left groin muscle, aggravating it when he returned quickly and later spraining a joint in his shoulder.
Never knowing how long each injury would prevent him from playing made things even more frustrating for Perry, who declined nearly all interview requests last season.
"When you're dealing with ligaments and joints, it's a whole different ballpark," said Perry, who was limited to 72 carries, 341 yards and 1 touchdown last season. "You've got to give those things time. You've got to give every injury time, but it's clear, cut and dry when you've got a broken bone, how long you're going to be out and the prognosis. But with stuff like joints and things, you never know.
"It humbles you. You know that things can be taken away from you at any time. And it was taken away from me and it humbled me to have to come back to get it back.
"I wasn't going to jump off a bridge or something, but as a player if you can't play, you're going to be hurting. That's just the nature of the game."
Perry missed nearly every offseason workout in 2002 then returned for preseason practice, but soon tore his left groin muscle when an offensive lineman stepped on Perry's foot as Perry tried to run. He tried to make a quick return but tore scar tissue away from the groin muscle as he reached backward for a pass during practice.
That led to even more early-morning trips to the training room for exercises and therapy. Perry said that on a typical day he would go for treatment from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., attend classes, then head back for more treatment.
Perry also was dealing with the birth of his daughter, Kaylah, who was born on Sept. 19, two days before Maryland's 45-3 victory over Eastern Michigan.
"That changed my life dramatically," Perry said. "You realize you've got somebody depending on you. It helps you grow up, makes you a man. I'm not saying just having a child will do that to you, but it brings a different light to life."
Perry returned to action as a surprise starter Oct. 26 at Duke. On the team's first offensive play, he took a handoff to the left and turned up the field through a sizable hole, jolting past the line of scrimmage like he had on several occasions in 2001.
"I should have taken it to the house," Perry said. "I missed the cut that would have taken me to the end zone. A guy came back and got me on my shoulder, forced me to the ground and crushed everything in."
Instead of punctuating his return with a 57-yard touchdown, Perry had a 19-yard run and another injury, this time a sprained ligament where the collarbone meets the breastbone. The injury forced him to miss the next game, but he was back on the field two weeks later.
"It hurt, but it wasn't excruciating," Perry said. "Just needed some time."
Now, with his final college season ahead of him, Perry appears ready to resume his starting role in the Terrapins' backfield. During Friedgen's first spring workouts with the Terrapins in 2001, he had running backs and linebackers line up about two yards apart for a drill called "goal-line run."
The object was to simulate a short-yardage, one-on-one situation where a running back needs to gain two yards.
"E.J. [Henderson] hit Bruce a couple times," Friedgen said with a chuckle to make it known that Perry was stopped short.
Friedgen brought the drill back this spring, perhaps wanting to gauge where Perry stood.
"Today, he scored about every time he had the ball," Friedgen said with a smile.
Terrapins Notes: Wide receiver Steve Suter, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on April 4, might return to practice soon. Backup running back Josh Allen is sidelined with a pulled groin muscle. . . . According to Friedgen, linebacker Randy Earle has left school for personal reasons but is expected back in the fall. Maryland is applying to the NCAA for an eligibility waiver that would allow Earle to play this fall, Friedgen said.