Derrius Guice watches the moment his rookie season was lost over and over, asking a question he still hasn’t been able to answer. He stares at the video of the play he suffered a torn ACL in the Washington Redskins' first preseason game, at the end of a dazzling 34-yard run against the Patriots and a seemingly routine tackle, and wonders, “Why?”
It’s a question he has asked himself often, during a rehab that has included an infection that delayed his recovery, required three additional procedures and kept him from the team’s facility. He thinks about it when watching Redskins games, tearing up in frustration at not being able to help the team during its fast start and current four-game losing streak. But Guice says he learned quickly that fairness is often irrelevant when it comes to life in the NFL.
“It was mainly, just, ‘Why me?’” Guice said Wednesday. “After going through the year I was going through with the draft and stuff, sliding and stuff. All the bad rumors about me and stuff. I just could never really fathom [or] understand, ‘Why me?’ That’s all I could think about."
Guice knew something was seriously wrong on the team’s bus ride from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to the airport Aug. 9. The rookie had left the game with a knee injury, but was all smiles as he walked around the locker room afterward, telling everyone that he’d be fine. But he soon realized his knee was not fine, locking up on him during the bus ride to the point that he couldn’t even walk up the stairs to the plane.
“I just knew my season was over,” Guice said.
An MRI the following day confirmed those fears: The No. 59 overall pick of the 2018 draft, expected to be an integral part of Washington’s offense after becoming an instant fan favorite in training camp, was lost for the season in the first quarter of his first preseason game.
“When I got the results the next morning, I was just kind of, like, stuck for the next few days,” Guice says. “Didn’t really know what to say or how to feel about it because I still thought it was unreal. I still think about that play every day to this day, every second . . . Every time I look at it, it’s the same stuff. I don’t even know how it happened. It’s just one of those things. It’s football, freak accidents happen. You’ve just got to bounce back from it.”
The injury was the latest setback in Guice’s challenging path from LSU to the NFL. Considered by many to be the draft’s best running back prospect behind Saquon Barkley, he slid to the end of the second round amid concerns about his character.
But Guice quickly won over his new fan base, signing autographs longer than any of his teammates at training camp, interacting on social media, hosting a video game live-stream and taking a group of fans to see “Avengers: Infinity War.” On the field, the energy and aggressiveness he brought to the team’s running game was immediately apparent. But with one tackle, his rookie year was lost.
He then faced significant setbacks in his recovery. Guice developed an infection after the surgery that lasted two months and required three additional procedures — which Guice referred to as “flushes” — to address the infected tissue, prompting seven weeks of heavy rounds of antibiotics through a catheter in his arm. There was a period of getting IVs three times a day, for three hours. His knee would swell up, giving him a burning sensation, and he came down with flulike symptoms when the infection was first detected and an orange, cloudy fluid needed to be drained from the joint.
The infection slowed his rehab process, and because doctors needed to check on him regularly, he stayed with family in Baton Rouge to remain within driving distance of Gulf Breeze, Fla., where orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who performed his surgery, has his practice. It kept Guice away from the Redskins' facility and his teammates.
“It really sucks, man,” Guice said. “Everywhere you go, you either have people asking how your knee is, how your rehab is going . . . or asking why you’re in Louisiana. ‘Why are you not with your team?’"
Guice said there is no specific timeline for when he will be completely recovered, but that the difficulties stemming from his infection are in the past, and he hopes to be ready by the time the Redskins' organized team activities begin in early summer.
The return to Redskins Park has been a bit strange for Guice. He wants to be around the team, but also doesn’t want to bother guys who are preparing to play each week. He has had conversations with Adrian Peterson, who was signed after Guice’s injury and excelled as his replacement, and the future Hall of Famer has offered some advice from dealing with his own ACL tear, but Guice gives him space. The plan is to pick Peterson’s brain a lot more during the summer while training with him and Washington left tackle Trent Williams at their gym, O Athletik, in Houston.
Guice said one of the hardest parts of being away has been watching Redskins games. This is the first time, Guice said, that he has missed the entirety of a football season since he was 6.
“In the beginning, every time the Redskins were playing, I’m at home watching and crying because I couldn’t be there, for one, and two I couldn’t play,” Guice said.
He still hasn’t been able to answer his question from the first moments following the injury: “Why?” But he has tried to find silver linings, looking ahead to a season in which he hopes to reemerge as a bright spot on a team that is currently dealing with several areas of uncertainty.
“I’m pretty mentally strong, so this isn’t beating me up,” Guice said. “I always try to look at the positives of things. It’s another year, I can get faster, bigger, stronger, learn the system more. Just be around the guys more.”
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