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Mature Outlook Is Paying Off for Redskins' Rogers
Whether Rogers has played press-man coverage, off the line in man-to-man alignments or as part of zone schemes on his side of the field, few opponents consistently have beaten him this season. In what many teammates described as a three-week stretch among the best of any cornerback in the league, Rogers shut down Philadelphia Eagles standout rookie wideout DeSean Jackson, neutralized St. Louis Rams perennial Pro Bowl pick Torry Holt and thoroughly frustrated Edwards.
"I saw [Edwards] fussing to his quarterback or coaches early in the game," Rogers said. "He was upset and confused at first."
In a Week 3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Rogers intercepted a pass tipped high by nickel cornerback Leigh Torrence and returned the ball 42 yards early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, quarterback Jason Campbell and wide receiver Santana Moss teamed on an 18-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score.
"And the thing about it, what's really grabbing people's attention, is that he's coming off that torn ACL and MCL," Evans said. "Playing the way he's playing, he should be a candidate for the Pro Bowl, and you've got to look at the circumstances. The way he played in the past, and people saying he might be a bust, to come out and play at a Pro Bowl level, after knee surgery, shows you how he really got focused."
On Oct. 28 last season, Rogers seriously injured his right knee in a 52-7 loss to the New England Patriots. Selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft, Rogers had been considered a disappointment to that point, in large part because he dropped many potential interceptions. And considering Rogers did not display a strong work ethic, some in the organization wondered how he would fare after reconstructive knee surgery.
But in difficult rehab work with team trainers in the offseason, Rogers pushed himself. Although the Redskins declined to announce a projected timetable for Rogers's comeback, they privately indicated he could be out until at least a month after the season began.
Rogers, though, set a goal of playing in the season opener Sept. 4. He came back Aug. 16 in the third preseason game against the New York Jets and started in the season-opening 16-7 loss to the Giants, finishing with five unassisted tackles and one pass defended.
"When he said he wanted to come back sooner than what the doctors were saying, I was like, 'Man, what is this guy thinking?' " free safety LaRon Landry said. "I didn't say anything to him about it because that's his own personal thing, and you don't want to come in between a guy's dream on what they want to do, but I was thinking it to myself.
"A lot of guys were just hoping he didn't mess up coming back so soon. And you know, even when he came back [to practice], he wasn't expected to play. So, yeah, what he's doing right now, man, it's something. Just his mind-set about the game, he's playing above and beyond what anyone probably would have thought. He had it in his mind what he wanted to do, and it seems like he's trying to go somewhere with it."
After reconstructive knee surgery, some athletes said it takes a full season or more to feel completely sound. Rogers had to work harder and smarter, he said.
"When you're a rookie, you got a little money, you want to go out, you want to do things like that," Rogers said. "Not saying there's nothing wrong with still going out, but for me, going out and doing stuff during the week, that's time I could be staying at home studying, getting in the cold tub after practice and doing things like that. Before, I would just take a shower, go to my meeting and leave. Now I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy and try to figure out how I can just get better."
Campbell and Rogers have been close since they were college teammates at Auburn. In the past, Campbell teased his friend about his carefree outlook, but now Rogers often beats Campbell to the tub.
"Once he decided he wanted to be an elite corner, a top corner in this league, he realized he had to study film, you've got to get your rest, you can't be out all times of the night each and every day," Campbell said. "And you can't just be complacent. You have to really put in the extra effort and do the things you need to do to get to the next level.
"Everyone at this level is good. That's the reason you're here. What's going to separate the great ones from the average ones is the time that you put in and the rest that you get away from the game. You have to make sure you're doing the proper things that you need to be doing, so that when Sunday comes you can give your best effort."
Washington (5-2) faces the winless Detroit Lions (0-6) on Sunday at Ford Field. Springs is not expected to play, so Rogers often could draw the difficult assignment of second-year wideout Calvin Johnson (6 feet 5, 239 pounds), who has a 21.2-yard average on 25 receptions. At the very least, Rogers figures to be well prepared, coaches and players said.
"When he goes into the game, Carlos has done his homework," Blache said. "He's a totally different personality in the meeting room and on the field. He's all business. Last year, he was still like a puppy out there, smiling and laughing. But when he walks into the meeting room, there's a coldness, almost like a hit man kind of thing: 'This is where I got to learn. This is what I want to do.' "
Staff writer Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.