The discussion regarding the Redskins' running backs group this offseason has consisted of the same three names – Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson.
For good reason – that's the trio the team expects to feature heavily in the backfield for 2019, now that Peterson is officially back in the fold. But head coach Jay Gruden, speaking at last week's NFL Annual Meetings, is looking forward to a forgotten member of the unit.
"The guy I want to see, who everyone thinks is in my doghouse, is Samaje [Perine]," Gruden said. "Samaje has not gotten the opportunities, I'm upset about that, that's my fault. But, I have not given up on Samaje. He's young, he's strong, he's physical, and I need to see him take that next step and I have to give him that opportunity to do that, and it's going to be hard with Guice and AP in there to get him the ball. That'll be a tough dynamic but I have to get that done."
Perine, the Redskins' fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, played in just five games last season. He carried the ball eight times for 32 yards and caught three passes for five yards. He was, to put it mildly, sparingly used.
Adrian Peterson's late arrival contributed to that playing time equation, as did the versatility provided by Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall, who filled in for Chris Thompson through stretches of the season. The Redskins never found a role for Perine – not as a fullback or as someone they could throw onto special teams, based on their roster needs for offensive linemen.
If anything, it's made Perine's offseason more work-intensive.
"I really didn't get to play a lot, so I was healthy right out of the gate, so I didn't have to rest for anything, out of the bye I was pretty much 100 percent healthy at the end of the season," Perine said. "I took about a week and a half off and I've been grinding ever since with our strength coach here at OU [Oklahoma University]."
Gruden's desire to see Perine take the next step is not lost on the former Sooner. He knows that the competition will remain challenging, and the roster decision to keep four running backs heading into the season will be largely predicated on his production in training camp and preseason.
"Competition is competition you know?" Perine said. "If you don't' like competition, if you don't grind with the competition, then I hate to tell you, but it's probably the wrong business for you. At the end of the day you know the coaches are going to do what they want to do, but you know I'm going to put my best foot forward, just like they're going to put their best foot forward, and you know whatever happens after that happens, but I'm sure we are all going to compete, we're all going to have fun and you know we're all going to go and feed off each other."
Perine has also gained some perspective this offseason. Just two weeks ago, his wife gave birth to a baby girl named Landyn, which Perine called "the experience of a lifetime."
"Doing whatever you want, when you want, going out to the movies whenever, going out to eat whenever, sleeping at night, and all of the sudden you are responsible for this little human being," Perine said. "You know you can't go anywhere without planning two or three days in advance, make sure you have a babysitter, make sure you have this and that, and it's been real interesting, but we're loving every bit of it. You know, we're both homebodies pretty much anyway, we don't really have much going on so that's been good but it's been fun."
Perine said he reached out to Oklahoma alumnus and teammate Tress Way, who has twin boys, about what to expect as a father, which has been helpful as he navigates a new job.
"Tress was really helpful and you know he's right here, he's about 30 minutes away from me," Perine said. "We met up on Tuesday morning with a little small group of guys of athletes and former athletes that are fathers and everything you know so I really got a lot from them and you know the support that Tress and all those guys have been giving me has been great."
As he prepares to return to Loudoun Co. next week in preparation for offseason workouts, Perine is glad he'll have his other Oklahoma alum and teammate in Peterson around for OTAs and minicamp to continue learning and using his energy.
"To have him just a locker down from me in the same meeting room it was just unbelievable," Perine said of last year. "I still can't believe it. Just getting to learn from him another offseason, and another year, it's going to be great."