As his fellow draft picks went through drills during rookie minicamp at Redskins Park last weekend, fourth-round selection Bryce Love was off to the side doing individual work with Elliott Jermyn, who serves as the Redskins’ Director of Rehabilitation Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer.
In one exercise, Love pulled a weighted sled up and down the sidelines. On each step, Love did his best to lift his knee to his chest.
None of this training was done at full speed, nor did it require a helmet or even a football. This was Love testing his physical capabilities in the months following the surgery he had to repair a torn ACL in December. And it's just a sliver of what the Redskins' newest running back will go through before joining his fellow rookies on the field.
"Rehab is going great,” Love told reporters following rookie minicamp May 11. “Every day, I feel like I'm getting better, being able to do more and more things. With what I’ve got, you’ve got to kind of be slow with it. Make sure you do it right, make sure you're 100 [percent] before you're ready to go.”
Had Love declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, he likely would have been a first-round pick without injury concerns. He was coming off a Heisman Trophy-worthy junior campaign at Stanford, running for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 8.1 yards per carry.
Instead, Love returned to school for his senior season and dealt with a nagging ankle injury that robbed him of his explosiveness and overall effectiveness. Then, on the final play of Stanford's regular season finale, he tore his right ACL.
Despite Love's serious injury, the Redskins kept their eye on him throughout this year's draft process and ranked him "pretty high" on their draft board, head coach Jay Gruden said. When Love was available early in the fourth round, they jumped at the chance to grab him 112th overall.
Even with a backfield that already includes Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, they saw too much value in Love to pass up.
"We try to just let the board speak to us, regardless of position," Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith said. "What we’ve been through as a team the last couple years with injuries, you never know who’s going to go down, so you’re always just trying to take good football players. Bryce is a guy ... had he come out last year, he would have been right in the mix of the first couple rounds with the deep group that came out last year running back-wise.”
Shortly after the Redskins drafted Love on April 27, he provided reporters with an injury update. At that time, he was progressing to treadmill work and introducing various impact drills and said his goal was to be ready at some point during training camp.
Meanwhile, Gruden said Love's rehab is "going in the right path" and Smith said Love is "ahead of schedule."
Love believes he can bring explosiveness and versatility to the Redskins' offense once healthy. He's eager to learn as much as possible from Peterson, one of the NFL's all-time leading rushers, and is excited to start working with Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan, who lightly recruited Love back in 2013 when Jordan coached at North Carolina.
"Everything that I can learn from everybody in the room will definitely be big to add in to my own game," Love said. "I'm just building to be the best player that I can with the aspirations of being the best to do it, working for that perfection and achieving excellence."
Love has cherished every step of his journey towards landing in Washington, his major injury and the ongoing rehabilitation process included. He does not regret returning for his senior season at Stanford, and he will not dwell over the possibility of potentially becoming a first-round pick.
He isn't 100 percent healthy (yet), but he's already achieved a "lifelong dream" of making it to the NFL.
And for that, Love remains grateful.
"Life is about learning, developing and progressing," Love said. "I feel like I am a better player for what I went through, and ultimately down the line it will be able to be shown. "