Every Wednesday after practice, La’Mical Perine sits with Frank Gore and watches film. The rookie running back for the Jets appreciates this one-on-one session, knowing he’s getting invaluable advice and perspective from a future Hall of Famer.
Gore advises Perine in the physical aspects of the game and also gives him some mental tips. One that has stuck with Perine is to remember everyone drafted before him. Now he can use that as fuel against teams that might have made a mistake by passing on him.
"I’m starting to do that every time he tells me that," Perine said. "I remember like four or five that were drafted before me. I wouldn’t say that they were more talented than me. Politics carry over around things like that."
This approach has worked for Gore, who can rattle off the five players taken before him in 2005. He was the best of all of them — and, at 37, is the only one still playing.
Eleven running backs went before the Jets selected Perine in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick. The Jets will try to stop one of them on Sunday in Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is second in the NFL with 551 rushing yards.
Perine is seventh among rookies with 123 yards on only 33 carries. He doesn’t play behind the line that Edwards-Helaire does and he certainly hasn’t gotten the opportunity that Edwards-Helaire has. But with the winless Jets featuring Perine more now, that's beginning to change.
"When you’re a first- or second-round draft pick, they expect you to come in and play right away," Perine said. "The room for error is bigger than it is for a fourth-round guy who’s just trying to work hard and work his way up the depth chart.
"Our progress is different. I’m not mad at it. They were higher draft picks than me, but it’s just motivation for me at this point."
When the Jets released Le’Veon Bell — whom they will face Sunday after he signed with Kansas City — the door opened for Perine to be more involved.
Perine has played 81 of the Jets’ 128 offensive snaps the last two games. He had 13 touches last week, rushed for a career-high 40 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown.
The plan is for the Jets to continue to use him and see if he can be counted on as their lead back next year. Because of his pass-catching abilities, he could be a three-down back.
"I thought he did a good job," coach Adam Gase said. "We had some chances for explosive plays. He had a couple of things where we’ve got to get cleaned up, but it’s good to see him get out there and be able to get the ball in his hands and be involved."
Perine says this about his approach: "Just take advantage of my opportunity. Don’t give them a reason not to play me. Don’t try to be perfect, but just try to get better every day."
In his final game for Florida, Perine was named the Orange Bowl MVP after amassing 181 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns against Virginia. He showed some of that explosiveness and versatility during training camp before suffering an ankle injury in a late-August scrimmage.
Perine, who was inactive in Week 1, might not have gotten the opportunity he’s getting now if Bell hadn't been released. Still, he might have been elevated to the No. 2 back before the season was over because Gore isn’t part of the Jets' future.
Perine played only 40 offensive snaps in the four games before Bell was let go — and Bell was injured for three of them. Gore was featured, but with the way this season has gone, the Jets have to see what they’ve got in Perine.
Gore went through a similar situation last year with Buffalo wanting to develop rookie Devin Singletary. He remains the consummate professional.
"When I get an opportunity, I get a fair chance, I can make things happen still," Gore said. "But Perine is a young kid. This organization wants to see their young guys grow. I’m going just going to come out every day and work hard and show him what it takes if he’s going to have the opportunity to make it as far as I did."
Perine didn’t know what to expect coming into this season. His plan was to watch, listen and learn from the two accomplished backs ahead of him.
He feels "blessed" that Gore is willing to help him.
"I don’t take it for granted," Perine said.
His favorite player growing up was former Cowboys, Eagles and Titans running back DeMarco Murray. Perine also looked up to Bell and patterned parts of his game after the former Steelers star. He called it "an honor" to be able to work with Bell and pick up things from him.
"Le’Veon is definitely one of those guys that I can compare to as far as his vision, his patience, being able to catch out of the backfield," Perine said. "He helped me with a lot of things just technique-wise. Just being a complete football player. It carried over with everything I’m doing right now."