A Key Cog Gets Back In Working Order

The Washington Post's Jason Reid talks to defensive coordinator Greg Blache and cornerback Fred Smoot about rookie cornerback Justin Tryon. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington PostPhotos: John McDonnell & Preston Keres/The Washington Post, AP, Getty Editor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The coverage skills are still there. The ability to backpedal at full speed, turn and run with receivers and make sharp cuts -- Washington Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers can do it all.

Rogers, who had reconstructive knee surgery in November, proved it to himself again the other day after practice at Redskins Park. He moved well while working with wide receiver Santana Moss as secondary coach Jerry Gray monitored the one-on-one session, and the best part, Rogers said, is his right knee cooperated.

"I don't even feel it. No pain at all," Rogers said. "I'm out here doing what I do just working and working each day and trying to get back. We got a good group [of cornerbacks], and I know they all [will] hold it down until I'm ready. That's where I'm trying to be."

After missing the second half of the 2007 season, Rogers is being brought back slowly. The Redskins have exercised caution with his rehabilitation program and are pleased with the results, though they have not given a timetable for his full participation.

Rogers plans to play when Washington kicks off the NFL's regular season schedule on Sept. 4 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, and he said he is confident about achieving his goal. When Rogers comes back, he will rejoin a unit that was among Washington's strengths during its late-season push to the playoffs and could be deeper this season because of an infusion of youth.

The former first-round draft pick is eager to regain his position in the cornerback rotation, but the Redskins want Rogers back only at full strength.

"They're doing a very smart thing with Carlos," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "They're not just throwing him out there in the midst of training camp, in the midst of all of this, and risking him re-injuring it. The thing about it is, Carlos is either [going to] be that hell of a plus for us, or the guy everybody says we're missing."

Rogers, who returned his only interception last season 61 yards for a touchdown, tore his right anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a 52-7 loss to the New England Patriots Oct. 28. He had surgery about a week later after the swelling in his knee subsided and then began the long recovery process.

In difficult rehab work with team trainers in the offseason, Rogers pushed himself, Redskins officials said, impressing with his determination. Although Rogers, beginning his fourth season, has made good progress after such a serious knee injury, the Redskins are reluctant to expose him to contact or have him put too much pressure on the knee at this stage. He has not been cleared to take part in 11-on-11 drills and has been ruled out of Sunday's Hall of Fame preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts in Canton, Ohio.

Limited to unit drills and individual work, Rogers has focused on honing his coverage technique. He has worked individually against wide receivers, usually Moss and Antwaan Randle El, after several practices.

After reconstructive knee surgery, many athletes slowly regain their form -- speed, power and agility -- with some saying it takes a full season or more to feel completely sound again. Unsure about his physical tools, Rogers has "got to be smarter," he said. "Learning my break points [in coverage], learning everything like the angles of the receivers, that's what's important for me now.

"The whole rehab process, it's a process that they're taking me on slowly. They're slowly getting me into it, instead of doing everything and having my leg swell up on me. But I've got to use this time to help myself. I don't have [any] effects from what they're doing, so that's good."

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