Ask five people when football is “back” and you might get five different answers. Football might be “back” when training camp begins in July, or during a fantasy football draft, or when the season opens on Thursday night in September, or during the first Sunday of the season. Many would say football was “back” on Thursday, when 12 games kicked off the first week of the 2018 preseason, unleashing an avalanche of highlights that captured the imaginations of fans all over again.
In truth, football is back when it takes a talented player and pulls the rug out from under him before his season can even begin, which happened on Friday when The Washington Post reported that Washington rookie running back Derrius Guice tore his ACL against the Patriots on Thursday night. Guice had suffered the injury in the first quarter, but after the game beat reporters found him uninhibited and smiling in the locker room, when the tear hadn’t yet been diagnosed.
Derrius Guice says all is well pic.twitter.com/oELzfARxSi— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) August 10, 2018
Friday morning, an MRI revealed the injury and the team ruled Guice out for the season. The rookie tweeted after the news became public:
God never makes mistakes— 2️⃣9️⃣ (@DhaSickest) August 10, 2018
It’s a blow for Washington, which employed one of the most injured units in football last year, with 23 players on injured reserve by season’s end. While Washington doesn’t have the injury curse of the Philadelphia 76ers, something of a rookie curse is developing. Guice is the third straight high-profile Washington pick to suffer a major injury as a rookie; first-round picks Josh Doctson and Jonathan Allen barely played after suffering lower-body injuries in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
This injury is particularly brutal because coach Jay Gruden had said that the team expected Guice to be their first- and second-down running back this season. Guice never stops churning his feet, which creates a physical and theatrical style of breaking tackles that made him popular among fantasy players (currently 42nd overall by ESPN ADP) and Washington fans. That style was on display against New England.
This Derrius Guice (@DhaSickest) was a microcosm of what he brings to the #Redskins.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) August 10, 2018
Started with a smooth cutback.
Then the dirty spin move.
Followed by the nasty stiff-arm.
That will be the lone highlight of Guice’s season (not counting the video of him buying his mother a car.) Unless the team turns to outside help, Guice’s role on early downs will likely be split among Samaje Perine and “Fit Rob” Kelley, who competed for the gig last year. Those are both serviceable options, but the loss of Guice undoubtedly takes some wind out of Washington’s sails. Now Washington is once again behind the eight ball for the umpteenth consecutive year in which the team wants to establish the run and will subsequently have to rely on quarterback Alex Smith, whom they acquired in a January trade.
Whether you’re a fan or a fantasy owner, this is a bummer. For 24 hours, the buzz of preseason was pure. Cam Newton met Kelvin Benjamin at midfield. Saquon Barkley ran 39 yards on his first career carry. Baker Mayfield threw two touchdowns in the first half. Lamar Jackson looked like Dash from The Incredibles. Josh Allen Josh Allen-ed, and Bill Belichick Belichicked. Everything was happening all at once. And then Guice tore his ACL, and that buzz was leavened by another familiar part of the game: the injury report.