ASHBURN, Va. — As the line of players dwindled Wednesday, one slowly worked his way down the autograph line until nobody was left. He signed; he chatted with some and laughed with others. Running back Derrius Guice already has become a man of the people, it seems, in only one month of being a Washington Redskin.
It’s too early to have a foregone conclusion on what any rookie might do in his first season. Most players should look good in the spring; they’re at their healthiest and no one is in pads.
But it’s clear via social media Guice has become a player Redskins fans can’t wait to see in action. When it comes to Redskins rookies, the list of those who have generated a lot of buzz with their talent and personality isn’t long. In the past 20 years, LaVar Arrington and Robert Griffin III would be on that list. The late Sean Taylor was a buzzworthy player, mainly because of how much people liked his game. He was a big presence, but did not need the sort of spotlight others craved. Griffin just needed to smile and fans would swoon; he was charismatic, too. When camp was at Redskins Park, Arrington would pit groups of fans against one another, asking them to loudly cheer to decide where he’d go sign. He enjoyed it; fans ate it up.
Fans light up around Guice, mainly because he lights up around them. Whether it’s treating fans to a movie (and refreshments) on a whim or greeting them behind the ropes as players exit the field. Stories on the running back generate more action on Twitter and Facebook than almost any other. Just a Twitter mention of how no one seemed to be enjoying themselves more on the field than Guice warranted more than 275 likes. And counting.
Guice also has quickly embraced his new city, tweeting about the Washington Capitals and even attending the watch party at the Capital One Arena for the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5.
It’s impossible to speculate how Guice will develop as a player. Thus far he looks patient, but decisive when he cuts. Rob Kelley looks good, too. But what happens when the defenders are in full pads and going a lot harder than they are in the spring? We won’t get a taste of that until the preseason games begin in two months. In college, Guice ran with violence; more of the same is expected with the Redskins, but who knows to what degree.
Guice also showed Wednesday he can catch. He doesn’t let the ball get into his chest, grabbing it with his hands. He’s able to gather his feet quickly and turn in stride. Protection, not his hands, will dictate how well he does when the Redskins have him in passing sets.
They threw to him out of the backfield a couple times during full-team work. One time Guice lined up wide, as most backs are asked to do on occasion these days. Another time he caught a pass out of the backfield, and then, on a field soggy after a few weeks of rain, juked Jerod Fernandez. The linebacker fell to the ground as Guice ran past. One offensive player shouted, “It wasn’t the field!”
Yes, Fernandez will be a long shot to make the roster, and better linebackers await. But it showed the patience and cutting ability Guice had in college. Take it for what it’s worth: a nice play in the spring.
His character will be a topic, mainly because that was widely viewed as a reason he fell to No. 59 and was the seventh back taken and not the second. Guice can control that narrative with his conduct. He’ll make mistakes — he’s only 2o. The key will be staying on the right path even after he does. Time will be the ultimate truth-teller.
For now, what we know about Guice is fans can’t wait to see him; he has a big personality and he’s talented. The season will reveal more.