The latest injury blow for the Washington Redskins rested on the operating table of orthopedist James Andrews in Florida on Thursday morning. That is where running back Derrius Guice was having what Coach Jay Gruden called “a minor procedure,” but the surgery to repair the torn meniscus in Guice’s right knee could keep Guice out for up to eight weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
While Gruden would not offer a timetable for Guice’s return and said he did not know whether the team would place the second-year running back on injured reserve, the injury is nonetheless a major setback for Washington. The Redskins, who are in the midst of a tough opening schedule, were counting on Guice to be a critical part of the team’s offense as a featured runner they have expressed excitement about since drafting him in the second round last year.
Andrews also operated on Guice last year, after Guice tore the ACL in his left knee during the team’s first preseason game. Gruden had said this week that Guice could return by Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, but two people with knowledge of the situation said Monday that Guice could miss multiple weeks.
Guice, who had worked all last season to get back from his ACL injury and was very enthusiastic in front of his locker after playing in his first regular season game Sunday, expressed optimism in a tweet sent Thursday afternoon. “Don’t feel bad for me!!” he wrote. “This is what I signed up! It wear and tears on your body over time! I’ve been doing this 15 years!! Trust the process.. head up chin up and grind.”
Don’t feel bad for me!! This what I signed up! It wear and tears on your body over time! I’ve been doing this 15 years!! Trust the process.. head up chin up and grind— 2️⃣9️⃣ (@DhaSickest) September 12, 2019
But the development is probably painful for the Redskins, who described Guice as a steal when they selected him in 2018 — a player whom they had on the first round of their draft board, according to Doug Williams, Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel.
There was hope that Guice finally could have a major impact on the offense this year, having recovered after sitting out his rookie season while recovering from his torn ACL. Gruden said last week that the offense would run through Guice, and he felt so confident about Guice’s ability and health status that he didn’t dress 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 1,042 yards last year in Guice’s absence.
Now Peterson is back to being the starting running back.
“It’s just [been] like a roller coaster, you know?” Peterson said when asked what his emotions were over the past few days. “It was an all-time high leading up [to the start of the season] to an all-time low and not really understanding and then the climbing to get back up here. But I’m a professional. I’ve been through way worse things than not being active for Week 1.”
Later, he said, “It’s moving on; for me it’s water under the bridge.”
Late Sunday afternoon, when Gruden still believed Guice had come out of the opener without injury, the coach said the only way he would use Peterson and Guice together is if “we think we can run the ball 55 times in a game in I-formation.”
Gruden’s tone had changed by Wednesday, when he named Peterson the starter if Guice couldn’t play and said he wanted Peterson on the team.
“No,” Gruden said when asked whether he and Peterson needed to talk about what happened over the weekend. “We’ve talked. He’s in a good place. Nobody’s ever happy if you’re the backup or not dressing. But you are still on the team, and when your number is called, you roll. And Adrian is a pro, and I feel very good if his number is called this week he will be ready to go and play very hard and he’ll be Adrian Peterson.”
For now, Guice’s NFL career is frozen at the 10 carries for 18 yards and the three catches for 20 yards he had Sunday.
Peterson is not as ideal a fit for Gruden’s offense as Guice; he is known for being more of a straight-ahead runner and not a great pass-catching threat. But Peterson worked hard to adapt his game to the offense last season and has repeatedly said his pass-catching numbers were lower in past seasons because his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, was constantly changing quarterbacks.
In his first meeting last year against this week’s opponent, the Cowboys, Peterson carried 24 times for 99 yards in a 20-17 Washington victory. He had one of his worst games of the season when the teams met again in Dallas later in the season, rushing for only 35 yards in a 31-23 Thanksgiving Day loss.
Mark Maske contributed to this report.