With his feet firmly planted on the grass at FedEx Field, and the stadium buzzing from the bass pumping through the disc jockey’s speakers, Derrius Guice tried to shift the focus from his past to his potentially bright NFL future with the Washington Redskins. He would prefer to put the past few days behind him and focus on the “fresh, clean slate” he now has been given, but the speculation surrounding his character and his surprising tumble down the draft board could not be ignored.
“No one wants to hear their name be slandered like that,” the former Louisiana State running back told reporters Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Redskins selected him in the second round, 59th overall.
Guice, a compact beast of a back, whose physical, bulldozing style made him a consensus first-round pick in dozens of mock drafts over the past few months, didn’t provide any details or explanations for the rumors regarding his lateness to pre-draft meetings with teams and an alleged “altercation” with members of the Philadelphia Eagles organization.
Guice (5-foot-11, 224 pounds) also garnered headlines in March when he told Sirius XM Radio that he was asked, “Do I like men?” and if his mother is a prostitute during NFL Scouting Combine interviews. The league, however, conducted an investigation and said it found no evidence that Guice was asked such inappropriate questions by teams.
As Guice stood in one end zone of the field Saturday, waiting to address the hundreds of fans assembled in front of a makeshift stage, he reiterated that “the rumors and stuff” were “false,” adding: “We don’t know where everything came from. It just kind of happened right as the draft went on. It’s just one of those things I can’t control. All I can control is this.”
(Hours later, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman told local reporters that there was no altercation between Guice and members of the organization, in Philadelphia or anywhere else.)
Asked specifically about the league’s investigation into his combine comments, Guice again steered the conversation toward the present. “I just got drafted by the Washington Redskins,” he said. “I’m just trying to move forward from that and start a new slate and be ready when the season starts.”
Back in Ashburn, the Redskins’ brass was busy preparing for the final four rounds of the draft. With its first pick Saturday afternoon, Washington selected Penn State safety Troy Apke in the fourth round at No. 109, followed by Virginia Tech defensive tackle Tim Settle in the fifth round at No. 163 and Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton in the sixth round at No. 197. With their two seventh-round picks, the Redskins took Virginia Tech cornerback Greg Stroman at No. 241 and Southern Methodist wide receiver Trey Quinn at No. 256.
Coach Jay Gruden said the organization feels “very good” about its draft but cautioned, “We are not guaranteeing anybody anything. They have got to come in here and compete. . . . We anticipate these guys having an immediate impact and we’re going to give them every opportunity to do that, but we also have guys in-house that aren’t going to give their job away easy.”
Before addressing the fans at FedEx Field, Guice and Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, selected in the first round, acknowledged in their joint introductory news conference that they will be expected to contribute right away. But neither rookie seemed fazed by the responsibility.
“I stop the run for a living, so I think that’s going to be something easy,” Payne said. “We are just going to get to it, and I’m just happy to put that hat on and go to work.”
The expectations for the 20-year-old Payne are high, considering the Redskins’ defense allowed 134.1 rushing yards per game last year (worst in the league). According to the former Crimson Tide run stopper, Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has been a fan of his for a while. “Coach Tomsula, he loves me,” the 6-3, 311-pound Payne said, smiling. “He’s crazy. I’m just ready to get after it with him.”
Guice, meanwhile, likened his game to that of Marshawn Lynch, joking that he’s “Beast Mode 2.0” — a nod to Lynch’s well-known moniker — because of the comparisons between the two. But if fans thought Guice was a violent runner before, stay tuned.
Although he was considered by many to be the second-best running back in the draft behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (who went No. 2 overall to the New York Giants), six backs were selected before the Redskins drafted Guice midway through the second round.
“Now I’m going to run angrier than ever,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for a lot of teams to bring me down.”
The reports that surfaced this week resulted in Guice falling further than he ever anticipated, but he also credited the Redskins for believing in his character.
“They didn’t just go off rumors. They didn’t just hear everything and believe it, because they met me,” Guice said. “. . . Just to see a team not let rumors and stuff like that affect their decision to bring me in, I have to give my all to these guys. They changed my life. They believed in me. They trusted me.”