RICHMOND — Derrius Guice turned into a fan favorite a year ago in Richmond — flashing his toothy grin, bounding around with never-ending energy and signing autographs well after his teammates had disappeared into the facility. He also quickly proved himself the best running back on the roster, displaying the combination of speed, power and shiftiness that caused many to label Guice the second-best rusher in the 2018 draft.

Guice returned to the scene of his greatest professional triumph Thursday as the Washington Redskins opened training camp. The session had a familiar feel. Guice had the crowd oohing and ahhing when he broke loose on his first touch before holding another marathon autograph session with fans screaming his name.

The issue, however, is this is as good as it has gotten for Guice as a pro. He tore his ACL in the first preseason game last year, dealt with an infection while healing and had a lengthy recovery. Training camp success is nice, but it ultimately means nothing.

“I’m just ready to get to game day,” Guice said. “I done went through this already last year. Got to do it, it leads up to game day, but I’m just ready for actual game days now. . . . I’m ready for football, man. It’s been a long year for me, man. Literally, the longest year ever.”

Guice was all smiles on the field, made it through the first full practice since that preseason game unscathed and had his usual bag of lollipops waiting for him after the session. But the previous 11 months have not been fun.

“It’s the hardest thing I ever had to go through in life, period,” Guice said. “Doing what you love, finally getting here, finally making it to the NFL, and then the first game you’re out for the whole year. It’s just mind blowing. People are saying ‘injury prone’ and this and that besides hoping I get fully recovered. I’m still 22. For a lot of people to come at me the way they did, that’s not really helpful. Thank God for all the people that were on my side the whole year."

The pain isn’t 100 percent gone. There are good days and sore days, and Coach Jay Gruden said he and his staff will monitor how Guice feels each day. There were no limitations on Day 1, with his knee and the hamstring he tweaked a few weeks ago appearing to be fine, but that could change with rest days or just cutting back on reps. Gruden called it a “fine line between babying them and maintenance” and noted that Guice needs the work. He’s not a proven veteran like Adrian Peterson, whom Guice continually studies, comparing himself to a son watching his father and soaking everything up.

The first day’s highlight was that first run in which he burst through the right side of the line and then shook a couple of teammates, including Landon Collins, as he cut back. The two Louisiana natives already had talked some trash leading up to the first practice.

“ ‘I’m a make you look funny,’ " Guice said he told Collins. “So I had to. Shout out to Landon Collins. I had to do it to him.”

As outgoing and positive as Guice tries to be, he learned from his rookie year that things can change quickly. He fell in the draft but landed in a good spot to win the job. He excelled in training camp, then blew out his knee. So what did he learn about himself with all of that non-football time?

“I’m really a strong son of a gun, mentally.” Guice said. “I’m not even talking about physically. Overcoming everything I’ve had to overcome with the whole draft process last year, then that happened in the first game. Just really knowing that I’m mentally strong. . . . 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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