Staff Photo: John Bohn Georgia Tech's Charles Perkins wears a yellow jersey during a spring football practice. Perkins played high school football at Collins Hill.
ATLANTA -- For someone in Charles Perkins' position, spring football practice is a time to put one's shoulder to the proverbial wheel.
But for the Collins Hill grad and Georgia Tech B-back, that concept is one he takes quite literally.
Just over six months after surgery to repair a shoulder injury that cost him the bulk of the 2012 season, Perkins is trying to make up for lost time.
"It's feeling a lot better," the 2009 Daily Post Offensive Player of the Year said of his shoulder. "I played last year, and it was pretty messed up and we had to go in and fix it. It's been messed up since high school, and it just got real bad after the Virginia Tech game (last season). ... I missed most of the year last year, so it feels good to get back out there practicing with the team."
As eager as Perkins is to get back on the field, Tech coach Paul Johnson and his staff were a little more cautious.
"Well, for instance, Charles Perkins is in (a) gold (no-contact jersey)," Johnson said after the Jackets' second day of spring practice March 27. "He hasn't really done anything, and we probably won't know (how he's progressing) until we get into the spring a little bit. We just go off the medical staff and what they tell us. I learned a long time ago (that) I'm not smart enough to have a medical degree. So, whatever they say, we try to do."
And with Tech's medical staff finally having cleared him to practice full speed last Monday, Perkins is where he's longed to be since his surgery last fall -- back on the practice field.
The timing of the injury couldn't have been worse for the 6-foot, 215-pound redshirt junior after winning the job following a strong close to preseason practice last fall.
The injury, a holdover from his high school days at Collins Hill, limited him to 23 yards on just seven carries in Tech's season opener against Virginia Tech and the following week against Presbyterian.
But as frustrating as it was to have to shut down for the season just when he was finally starting to get meaningful carries after a redshirt season and a freshman season in which he was primarily a reserve, he prefers to look ahead, rather than feel sorry for himself.
"That's life," said Perkins, who has 118 yards on 35 career carries at Tech. "Everything's not (always) going to go your way. It's good I got (the injury) fixed. Of course, I would like better timing. I wish I could've gotten it done in the offseason and tried to play through it, but it didn't work out. That's life. I just roll with the punches."
And what Perkins has in front of him is a lot of hard work over the next week leading up to Tech's spring game Friday night to try to compete with fellow veterans David Sims and Zach Laskey for the starting job at B-back, with incoming freshman Travis Custis joining the fray in the fall.
Though he has missed a lot of reps in practices and in games, Perkins is confident he's learned enough about his position in Johnson's spread-option offense to keep from falling behind too much.
His biggest task, he says, will be physically getting back into football shape, as well as not letting the injury become a mental roadblock as he absorbs contact for the first time in about seven months.
"It's something you've got to get over," Perkins said. "You can get hurt doing anything. The shoulder's not really a big deal. I just come out and not worry about it.
"I've been (playing) B-back for a while. I'm already used to the plays. (It's) just a matter of getting back out there and getting back used to the speed of the game and being able to take hits."
In a way, Perkins' path resembles that of the entire Tech team.
The Jackets had some rough moments during last year's 7-7 campaign, including an embarrassing home loss to Middle Tennessee State in October and a lopsided regular season-ending loss to in-state rival Georgia.
But a much better performance a week later in a narrow loss to Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game and a win over Southern California in the Sun Bowl have the outlook for spring practice and the 2013 season much more bright.
And Perkins is ready to add to the positive vibe.
"Every day, I just want to come out and compete, do my best and help out wherever I can with the team," Perkins said. "Whether that means in different roles, that's what I'm going to have to do. I just want to help the team and work hard."