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Redskins running back Derrius Guice on hardest year of his life – Washington Redskins Blog

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RICHMOND, Va. — The gunfire rang out too close to home — like right outside — prompting a panicked phone message from a young Derrius Guice. Ninth grade had just ended; football workouts started the next day. But he had to let his coach know he might not arrive on time, if at all.

He left a message on Catholic High School coach Dale Weiner’s voicemail.

“Grandma’s coming to pick me up because they’re shooting in our house!” Weiner recalled Guice saying in the message. “They’re shooting in our house, coach!”

That is just a snippet of what the Washington Redskins running back overcame in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to reach the NFL. His dad, who was killed when Guice was 5, was part of that reality. Guice’s neighborhood, known as “The Bottom,” was not an easy place to grow up.

“His junior year, I picked him up at his house, and three different times when he got in the car, he was talking about someone who got shot last night that lived down the street,” Weiner said. “One of them, the crime tape was across the street. [It was] one of his friends who went to another school.”

Given all that Guice has lived through, his words on the first day of training camp were striking. He said last season was his toughest ever, and it showed him that he is mentally strong. He was upset that his character came into question before, during and after the draft. Then he tore the ACL in his left knee during the Redskins’ first preseason game. Nobody created more buzz early in camp last season than Guice; it vanished in an instant.

“I got to this stage, and I felt like I’d seen it all. I felt like I’d beaten everything that came toward me,” Guice said. “When this happened, when the love of my life was taken away, that was the most critical thing I had to go through and overcome. Football was never taken away from me ever in 15 years of playing. This ain’t no wimp injury. This is one of the most detrimental injuries out there — period. When it happened, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Football, Guice said, has been his salvation. After missing the 2018 season, he’s a full participant in training camp, and his workload continues to increase in full-team drills. Last week, the Washington coaches were excited to see him catch a route down the sideline and run 80 yards to complete the play. On the next play, he ran an outside zone for 50 yards and then picked up a blitz in protection.

“I’ve been impressed with him,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

It was the full Guice package, the one that led the Redskins to believe he would have an excellent rookie season — until the ACL injury. After the initial surgery, Guice had three procedures to help prevent an infection. Because of this, for two months, he needed an IV three times a day for three hours at a time.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Guice said. “Sometimes he tells you that you need to slow down. I felt that was the message to me: Slow down, and let him do his work.”

Playing for his dad

For Guice, this season is about returning to his passion. It began because of his dad.

“He told me I was going to be the football man of the house,” Guice said. “He told me that when I was 5 years old, and then a few months later he got murdered. That’s what got me into it, and I never left. I wanted to honor football for him because that’s what he told me I was going to do.”

Guice started playing at age 6 with kids three and four years older. He was a fast, straight-line runner at that age, and he needed to learn how to cut.

“But there was no fear, definitely no fear,” said Terry Boyd, Guice’s youth coach. “That’s one thing he never had.”

A year later, playing against kids his own age and having learned how to cut, Guice emerged. Boyd challenged him, proclaiming another player was pushing him for the job. Guice responded by doing things such as running extra laps in full gear. In his second season, Boyd said Guice scored about 50 touchdowns.

“Untouchable,” Boyd said.

As a ninth grader, Guice enrolled at Catholic, hoping to follow in the footsteps of its football alumni: former NFL running backs Warrick Dunn, Travis Minor and Jeremy Stewart.

Guice’s high school experience helped him grow, but that growth was accompanied by pain.

“It really brought the man out of me,” Guice said last year before his injury. “Me coming from a poverty-stricken area to an all-white private school, I had to grow up quick. I was around all these kids that carried themselves like grown-ass men. I’m still over there trying to get used to what’s going on. It was hard. I wasn’t used to being around the opposite color and being around them [all] day, talking s— all day. I’m not as smart as them. I’m only there for football. In my neighborhood, your first reaction was to fight. I already knew at a school like that I’m getting put out [for fighting], so a lot of s— I had to swallow and take in and use as motivation.”

That motivation showed itself on the field, where, as Weiner said, when Guice ran the ball, he was a “ball of butcher knives. … He would not go down. He was as tenacious a runner as I’ve ever been around.”

Guice persevered and used Catholic to help him stay out of trouble.

“Why would I want to be surrounded by people that could put me in jail?” Guice said of his neighborhood. “Football was what I always wanted to do. So any option to get me away from [that environment], I was taking it. That could be meetings, it could be practice or going to Catholic for extra tutoring.”

Guice made good friends and remains tight with his high school coaches and other faculty members. The only trouble he got into was a brief suspension from the team for a minor offense, Weiner said. Guice also occasionally butted heads with his position coach, Gabe Fertitta, who is now the head coach.

“I grew as a coach because here’s a kid who was really smart, who knew what was happening on the field,” Fertitta said. “I would say, ‘Would you rather run the play this way or that way?’ Often times his answer was, ‘I want to run that way because …’ and his answer was pretty darn good. This wasn’t a one-way street with Derrius. He helped me grow.”

Another inspiration

As Guice was recovering from his injury, he suffered another loss. In June, his 3-year-old cousin, Radyn Terrell, found a gun in his home and accidentally shot himself. Guice immediately headed to Houston, where the boy was hospitalized. Two days later, Radyn died.

Guice said he has a Fat Head of his cousin in his locker. When asked about him, Guice was silent for seven seconds before responding.

“It reminded me on how precious life is and how short it can be,” he said. “That’s why every day I’m out here, I take it to the fullest. I don’t take days off. I don’t take reps off. Life isn’t promised. Hell, football isn’t promised. There’s a lot of people that wish they were in our shoes. Nothing is promised, and to see my little man … That s— hurts, man.

“I look at him every morning. It’s always going to be a sadness because I wish I could see him physically and touch him and love him, but I know I’ll see him again. Football isn’t always going to be there, but family always will be there. I’ll never turn my back on family. Never.”

Football has helped Guice survive the tough moments in life. Then it was taken away. Now football is back. That’s why Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan got a little choked up talking about Guice’s return.

“I know what he’s been through in his life,” Jordan said. “That’s a lot to overcome, but he has some resiliency. That’s why I get emotional. I know where he comes from, and I know where he’s trying to head.”

Guice’s journey didn’t break him.

“It was the hardest thing I ever had to go through in life,” he said. “I’m really a strong son of a gun.”

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Rams’ Todd Gurley stiff-arms QB Jared Goff’s compliment

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Last week, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley let his head coach shoulder the blame. This week, it’s his quarterback who intended to deliver a compliment, but perhaps didn’t find the right words.

“Sounds like I suck and then I made a good play,” Gurley said, straight faced with a shrug. “So, yeah, I guess so.”

Gurley, who has seen his workload increase in three of the Rams’ last four games, was referring to a stiff-arm touchdown run in which he battled Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers in a 28-12 victory over the Seahawks that caught the attention of quarterback Jared Goff.

So much so, that Goff stood at the podium after the win and lit up when asked about it. “He’s a bad dude,” Goff said. “It was vintage Todd.”

Vintage? Gurley didn’t think so … and made it known Thursday.

Against the Seahawks, Gurley rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught four passes for 34 yards. And that stiff arm? Nothing special. “Not my first time stiff arming nobody,” Gurley said. “Just a regular stiff arm.”

The Rams are 8-5 and chasing the Minnesota Vikings for the final wild card berth. On Sunday, they play the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-7) at AT&T Stadium.

Gurley has played an increased role in the offense and indications point to the trend continuing Sunday.

“The approach for us is that Todd is a big-time player,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He’s shown that he’s feeling good and when he’s doing those kind of things — whether it be through the pass game, through the run game — good things seem to happen for the Rams.”

After averaging 14.9 touches per game through the first 10 weeks, Gurley’s touches have increased to an average of 21 over the last four games.

When asked Thursday how he felt at this point of the season, compared to last season, Gurley responded, “It’s Week 15 in the league, ain’t nobody feeling rested. It’s Week 15, no one in this league is feeling well rested.”

Gurley had a season-best 28 touches in a Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears. In a Week 13 blowout over the Arizona Cardinals, he had 20 touches and last Sunday when the Rams defeated the Seahawks, he had 27.

McVay recently shouldered the blame for not giving Gurley more opportunity early in the season.

“Me not being an idiot,” McVay said last week, when asked what caused him to get the ball to Gurley more.

Gurley offered no alternative to McVay’s explanation.

“He said it, I didn’t,” Gurley said, chuckling. “That’s all I got to say. I don’t have anything else to say.”

The Rams offense has appeared to benefit from Gurley’s increased production, as Goff broke a month-long touchdown drought to pass for four touchdowns in the last two games.

Gurley was asked Thursday if the offense and other teammates benefitted when he was in rhythm.

“I feel like we all feed off of each other. I don’t really have to explain too much, you see the results over the last couple of years,” said Gurley, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons, as the Rams won back-to-back division titles and last season advanced to Super Bowl LIII. “When we’re running the ball, stuff is going well, stuff is opening up – so it’s like, it’s not too much really to explain, just got to go out there and do it, whether it’s in the passing game or the running game.”

Gurley has rushed for 721 yards and nine touchdowns on 177 carries in 12 games this season. He also has caught 26 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.

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Ravens QB Lamar Jackson breaks Michael Vick’s single-season rushing yards record

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson set the most impressive record of his young NFL career on Thursday night, breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing mark by a quarterback.

Jackson, the electric dual-threat quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner, eclipsed his childhood idol in the first quarter against the heavy underdog New York Jets on a chilly night at M&T Bank Stadium. He entered the game needing 23 yards to eclipse Vick’s mark of 1,039, set in 2006, and gained 27 on Baltimore’s opening drive, breaking the record on a 5-yard run that preceded a 6-yard touchdown by Mark Ingram to put the Ravens up 7-0.

After the score, the Fox broadcast cut to a taped segment of Vick congratulating Jackson.

“Lamar, I just want to say congratulations on making history,” Vick said. “One of many milestones that you will surpass in your career. Best of luck in everything that you do. You deserve it. Keep up the hard work, and I’ll always be rooting for you.”

With the way Jackson has run the ball this season — from his spinning around two defenders on a touchdown run in Cincinnati to juking defenders off their feet on a weekly basis — it had long been anticipated that Jackson would shatter Vick’s record. Jackson recently said it would be “an honor” to surpass Vick, reiterating that the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback is his favorite player.

Just like many of his elusive runs, Jackson established the new standard for rushing quarterbacks in staggering style, doing so in his 14th game of the 2019 season (which includes not playing a full fourth quarter in four games). He entered Thursday’s game as the leading rusher for the NFL’s No. 1 ground attack and on pace to rush for 1,251 yards rushing this season.

Jackson, 22, broke the record despite not being at full strength. He was limited in a couple of practices this week and was listed as questionable after injuring his quadriceps five days earlier in a 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

What makes Jackson’s achievement even more special is that no one previously got close to Vick’s record, which stood for 13 years. Before Jackson began sprinting past tacklers, the most rushing yards by a quarterback since 2006 came from Russell Wilson, who ran for 849 yards in 2014 — which were 190 yards shy of Vick. Last month, Vick acknowledged that he didn’t think his record would ever get broken.

Jackson and Vick are the only quarterbacks to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season, but they reached that milestone in different ways. Vick’s rushing yards were a near-even split between designed runs (52%) and scrambles (48%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. With Jackson, 65% of his rushing total is off designed runs, most of which come on zone reads.

Jackson has repeatedly downplayed any individual milestones, saying his focus is on winning. But Jackson’s running has been a major key to Baltimore’s success. When Jackson has run for at least 70 yards, the Ravens are 12-0 (entering Thursday’s game).

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Pat McAfee likes what he sees every week from the Ravens and thinks Lamar Jackson deserves to be crowned MVP right now.

What sets Jackson apart from Vick is his ability to beat teams with his arm as well. In Vick’s record-setting season, he threw for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns (75.7 passer rating). Through 13 games, Jackson had already surpassed those numbers, passing for 2,677 yards and 28 touchdowns (109.2 rating). He could become the first quarterback in NFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and a passer rating over 100.

This isn’t the first time Jackson passed a mark of Vick’s. On Dec. 1, against the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, breaking a single-season record Vick shared. Last month, Jackson became the fastest quarterback ever in the Madden video-game franchise, with a 96 speed rating, moving him past Vick (who had a 95 speed rating).

Jackson’s popularity has exploded in his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. He is the current favorite to win NFL MVP with 9-to-1 odds at Caesars Sportsbook. He tops all players in Pro Bowl balloting. He also watched one of his autographed No. 8 jerseys get presented to Pope Francis a couple of weeks ago.

Jackson has led the Ravens to the best start in franchise history. Baltimore (11-2), which entered Thursday as the AFC’s top seed, can clinch its second consecutive AFC North title with a win over the Jets.

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I know Odell Beckham Jr. wants to be here

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BEREA, Ohio – Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry said Thursday that teammate Odell Beckham Jr. wants to stay in Cleveland, despite reports and speculation that OBJ is looking for a way out.

“I think he wants to be here,” Landry said. “I know he wants to be here.”

Sunday morning, Fox Sports reported during its NFL pregame show that Beckham has been telling opposing players and coaches before games, “come get me” out of Cleveland.

Beckham, who declined comment on the report after Cleveland’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, had fueled speculation days earlier when he was vague about his future with the Browns beyond the 2019 season.

“No one knows what the future holds, like tomorrow,” Beckham said then, when asked whether he wanted to be in Cleveland next year. “I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen.”

Landry, one of Beckham’s closest friends dating back to when the two played together at LSU, was more definitive, even joking that he would “beat his a–” if Beckham were confiding in other people and not him.

“He doesn’t want to leave, and he’s not trying to leave,” Landry said.

Beckham has gone seven consecutive games without topping 100 receiving yards, the longest such streak of his career. He has also been playing through a hip and groin injury, which has hampered how much he can practice during the week and has limited his explosiveness in games.

“It’s not even about trying to go somewhere else,” Landry said. “I think for him, he’s been a leader, he’s a guy that comes to work every day, he’s a guy that’s playing through injuries, all the things you want out of a player. Inside of this organization, he has a voice, he has responsibility to himself, to all of us, to go out there and compete each and every Sunday, and he does that.”

Beckham has only two touchdowns, as he and quarterback Baker Mayfield have struggled to find a consistent connection in their first year together. Mayfield defended Beckham after Sunday’s game, saying that the injury “wasn’t handled right” by the team’s training staff (Mayfield later apologized and said he didn’t intend “to throw our medical staff under the bus”).

Wednesday, Mayfield was also asked whether he thinks Beckham wants to be in Cleveland long term.

“I can’t answer that for him,” Mayfield said. “I mean, there’s all the rumors going around. But I have my conversations with him and I know what we talk about, so I trust him wholeheartedly.”

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