FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)La’Mical Perine has mastered the ability to stay patient in his two NFL seasons.
Even when he has wanted nothing more than to be on the field for the New York Jets.
”Everybody’s not built for this, man,” Perine said Wednesday. ”I’ve been doing this all my life.”
The fourth-round pick last year out of Florida has played in just 14 games in the pros, including four this season. He has been hurt at times, buried on the depth chart at others and searching for a role.
All while fighting back the frustration he refuses to let overwhelm him.
”I’m going to come here and work my tail off,” Perine said. ”Hey, don’t get me wrong – this mindset, it was built over time. I had my times when I was in college and I wasn’t playing, but I didn’t dwell on that and just get mad every other day.
”I kept working. It played out. I got my opportunity.”
Perine had his most significant game action of the season last week against New Orleans, rushing for 28 yards on seven carries while playing 17 snaps on offense. It was the first time he was active since Week 9 at Indianapolis.
”It’s a stepping stone,” Perine said. ”It’s part of my journey. I’m going to keep going. There ain’t no giving up in my book, so I’m going to keep giving everything I’ve got.”
Perine didn’t become the full-time starter at Florida until his junior season, and he capped his college career by being selected the MVP of the Orange Bowl in 2019 after running for a career-high 138 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. He also caught five passes, including another score for the Gators.
Under Adam Gase, Perine was working behind veterans Frank Gore, Le’Veon Bell and Ty Johnson when an ankle injury sidelined him at the start of the season. A high ankle sprain cost him four more games. He still finished with 232 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 64 carries, and caught 11 passes for 63 yards.
”My first year, I was still kind of getting adjusted to things, learning how it is to be a pro,” Perine said.
He had a lot more learning to do this offseason after the Jets fired Gase and hired Robert Saleh, who added Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator. The Jets also signed Tevin Coleman in free agency and drafted Michael Carter in the fourth round, so Perine’s role was again unclear.
And there was also the issue of whether he was a fit in LaFleur’s West Coast-style system, something Perine has no doubts about.
”I’m a running back,” he said. ”I’m balanced – I can catch the ball, I can run the ball hard. I’m a three-down back. In this system, I’m used more as a power back and I understand that. Whatever my role is, I was drafted to be a three-down back and I can do everything, I feel like.
”So, whenever my coach wants to call my number, I’ve just got to be prepared for it at any time.”
LaFleur has been using a rotation most of the season of Carter, Coleman and Johnson, mixing and matching them in the backfield. That has left Perine as the odd-man out on a lot of Sundays.
”I’m not doing anything wrong,” Perine said. ”It’s just a numbers game. We’ve got a lot of good, talented backs, and I understand that. So when they’re down, I’ve got to pick up the slack for those guys. I can’t sit back and just wonder, `Oh, man, I haven’t been getting an opportunity all year.’
”If I do that, I’ll be dwelling on my opportunity. I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to keep working.”
Perine got that chance last week with Carter on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, Coleman sidelined with a concussion and Austin Walter dealing with a non-COVID-19 illness.
”He did a nice job,” Saleh said of Perine. ”La’Mical ran hard, he did some good things and it’s obviously a good week to build off of.”
Coleman was a full participant at practice Wednesday, so he should be back Sunday to face Miami. Walter is also fully healthy again. So that could push Perine back to the sideline for another week.
And he’ll remain patient – and ready – until he gets his next handoff.
”It’s just understanding who you are as a person,” Perine said. ”If you lose track of that, you’ve lost everything, you know? Like I said, I feel like I got drafted for a reason. I’m a talented guy. A lot of people might not think that, but they don’t see what I do, day in and day out. I can’t speak for them, you know what I mean?
”I know what I bring to the table each day when I step on that field. And I’m a dog at heart. That’s just me.”
NOTES: Carter (ankle), DE Bryce Huff (back) and TE Tyler Kroft (chest) were designated to return to practice. … CB Isaiah Dunn (non-COVID illness), LT George Fant (knee), LB Hamsah Nasirildeen (non-COVID illness) and DT Sheldon Rankins (knee) all sat out practice. … RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle), OL Dan Feeney (back) and DE John Franklin-Myers (knee) were limited.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL