Like more than 100 million others, Derrius Guice was tuned into Super Bowl LIV. He witnessed the San Francisco 49ers make it to Miami on the heels of a historic outing by running back Raheem Mostert, and then Damien Williams help power the Kansas City Chiefs past them to land the team's first Lombardi trophy in five decades. Although it was former league MVP Patrick Mahomes taking home the honor of Super Bowl MVP, there's an argument to be made for Williams having earned the award.
However you slice it, running backs have established they matter, and in big games, and Guice is taking everything he watched in the playoffs to heart. On the heels of the Washington Redskins having again missed the playoffs, the 22-year-old took to Twitter to contemplate what it would feel like to stand on the podium as a league champion.
, after all, and Guice is .
I cannot wait to see how it feels to seal the Super Bowl as a running back 😖— 2️⃣9️⃣ (@DhaSickest) February 3, 2020
He's no stranger to the narrative surrounding him, however, because it's coming from every direction.
The coming 2020 season is pivotal for Guice, to say the least. It's Year three for the former second-round pick of the Washington Redskins, but he's played a total of only five games in his first two seasons. Plagued by injury since entering the NFL in 2018, the 22-year-old missed his entire rookie year with torn ACL suffered in his very first preseason game. He'd return to the field in 2019, but he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee in his opening day debut -- requiring surgery to repair it.
He wouldn't lace up his cleats again until Week 11, but participated in only four games before being placed on injured reserve for the second time in two consecutive seasons, this time with an MCL sprain. All told, the three injuries in a two-year span have many questioning if Guice can remain durable at the NFL level.
"The main thing is getting through games healthy," Guice said, via The Washington Times. "I've been a practice all-American so far. I'm trying to bring that to the field."
His absence forced the Redskins to again lean heavily on future Hall of Fame halfback Adrian Peterson, who finished the year with a solid 898 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns at the spry age of 34. It's been Peterson carrying the load as the team's workhorse the last two seasons, and while the Redskins are more than thankful for Peterson playing time-defying football, their plan in 2018 was to transition to Guice being the lead back.
Thus far, he has only 245 career rushing yards with three rushing touchdowns on 42 carries. Guice understands it's not rocket science -- the more he stays on the field, the faster he can acclimate to the NFL and the more he can produce for the Redskins. With Ron Rivera now at the helm, and with Guice now on the back half of his contract, becoming the running back the team was hoping he could be when they called him in April 2018 will be paramount.
This is the same Rivera who drafted and coached up all-world talent Christian McCaffrey, and while no one can justifiably compare Guice to McCaffrey, the point is Rivera will demand availability and top-flight production from his run game. Guice has proven he can produce at the collegiate level from his time at LSU, but his resume is thus far tarnished at the pro level.
Until he can show an ability to stay healthy, not only does he have something to prove to the team, but also those he wants to silence -- i.e., those painting him as being "soft".
"When it comes to constantly being injured -- knowing how tough you are, but everybody else is looking at you as just soft who can't stay on the field, it's gonna frustrate you," Guice said, before jabbing back at those who have him strapped with the label.
"You just have to realize where you are and realize where they are in a sense," he said. "It's always the people behind you talking the loudest. ...I just gotta keep elevating and moving forward."
Guice can't escape the criticism, be it from some in the media or fans lobbing their takes at his social media accounts, but what he can do is silence it. That's if, and only if, he can finally bury the stigma surrounding his durability in professional football.
It's time to show and prove in 2020, and he knows it.