Derrius Guice was the bundle of energy who ran the ball with fury at Louisiana State.
Daron Payne looked the chiseled part of someone with the reputation of being a weight-room wonder.
Geron Christian even participated despite having yet to sign a contract.
The Washington Redskins opened rookie minicamp Friday in perfect weather, and there was a sense of relief among the players. They were thrilled to be back on the field, the part they’ve been waiting for since the college season wrapped up.
“Felt like my dream finally came true,” said Guice, the team’s second draft pick. “Being part of a National Football [League] organization. That was the best part to me. It was just fun to get out there. All the combine work and pro-day stuff, it was just good to get out on the field and actually do football again. Rather than getting out there and preparing for a [40-yard dash] or vertical [jump] — just getting out there and doing football stuff.”
The Redskins had their entire eight-man draft class participating along with 13 undrafted free agents who signed. Forty-six other former college players are trying out, and six first-year veterans are getting early work before organized team activities begin May 22.
Undrafted free agent signee Sean Welsh participated, but then announced his retirement from the game via Facebook, saying, “I’ve had apprehension about pursuing a professional career for some time.”
Guice and the other rookies have spent the past several months going through physical and mental preparation in hopes of improving their draft stock. Friday was the day they got back to their favorite habitat: between the lines.
“It was a bunch of fun,” said Payne, the Alabama defensive lineman picked 13th overall. “Got a chance to see how [defensive line coach Jim] Tomsula coaches. I’m just ready to get after it. I just want to learn everything, so I can do it all. I just wanted to show I can take the playbook and take what we learned from in there and use it out here.”
Coach Jay Gruden and staff will be doing plenty of evaluating over the three-day session as they get their first hands-on, football-specific workouts with the newcomers. The group went through team and individual periods wearing helmets, jerseys and shorts. What can be gleaned is limited because the players are without pads and don’t go through contact, but Guice stood out, seeming to run with pop and leading individual running back drills.
“He’s just a ball of energy,” Gruden said. “He’s really excited to be here. He’s willing to learn. He’s first in the meeting, got his playbook open and just soaking in all the knowledge.”
Guice, Payne and sixth-round linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton left the field early to get a weightlifting session in, a precaution taken by the coaches from an injury standpoint. Hamilton said he’s about 85 percent recovered from a fractured kneecap that ended his 2017 season at Alabama. He’s cleared to do everything and is on track to be 100 percent by training camp.
“I was just very happy to be back on the field,” Hamilton said. “Just wanted to get the terminology and get better and smarter learning the playbook and things like that. Just trying to be a better communicator with my teammates. I’m still in the early stages [of the playbook], but I’ll get better and better each day and feel a little bit more comfortable here and there. I was excited to just get the draft over with so I could get back to just being around the team and a set schedule. People don’t know how much just being around a team really means. It means a lot to me.”
The news wasn’t all good for the Redskins: Veteran guard Arie Kouandjio was diagnosed with a torn quadriceps. He was scheduled to get a second opinion Friday, but the initial report was a possible season-ending tear. The loss would be a significant blow to the interior part of the line after Gruden and Doug Williams, the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel, repeatedly talked about Kouandjio being in the mix to start at left guard. Shawn Lauvao, a four-year starter who has struggled with injuries, recently re-signed on a one-year deal.
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