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Injury a Learning Experience for Rogers
By PETE LAMONT, MOP Squad Sports Editor-in-Chief
Sep 14, 2004 - 12:20:00 PM

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The Detroit Lions certainly had high expectations for Charles Rogers when the team selected him with the second pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. However, since being drafted, the All-Everything receiver from Michigan State has been reduced to little more than a high-priced cheerleader and spectator for the first two seasons of his career with the Lions.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers carries the ball after a reception against the Cleveland Browns Saturday, Aug. 23, 2003, in Detroit. A broken collarbone has ruined another season for Rogers. The No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft was injured going for a pass Sunday, Sept. 12, 2004 in the first quarter of the 20-16 victory over the Chicago Bears. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Last October, after an encouraging start to the season, Rogers fractured his collarbone midway through the fifth game, a 24-17 loss in San Francisco. After a long off-season of rehab and getting back into game shape, there were high hopes for Rogers in the Lions offensive scheme again this season.

Last Sunday, however, all those plans quickly came to a crashing halt. In the Lions' opening drive against the Bears, Rogers fractured his collarbone again, forcing coach Steve Mariucci to shelve the talented receiver for yet another season.

Doctors have ruled out that this would be a recurring problem for Rogers. According to team sources, this new fracture, although on the same collarbone, is not related to the injury from last season. This fracture is an inch or so away from the old injury. There's nothing structurally wrong with Rogers' bone density that would lead him to other problems. Mariucci felt that this was simply a coincidence that Rogers has fractured the same bone twice.

With Rogers set to be out for 12-14 weeks in his recovery, the Lions are expected to place him on the Injured Reserve list this week. Mariucci has said that there has been no definite word on who will fill the roster spot, stating that the front office has been busy scouring the waiver wire. However, Mariucci also indicated that second-year receiver David Kircus, from Grand Valley State, could be a possibility to move up to the roster from the practice squad.

Fortunately, the Lions are better prepared for this season-ending injury to Rogers than they were last season. The team still has a receiving corps that includes a healthy Az-Hazir Hakim, free-agent acquisition Tai Streets, and this year's top draft pick, Roy Williams. Certainly, the team would like to have Rogers in the mix, but this group is still one of the most talented in the NFL without him.

When discussing the injury with a friend yesterday, one of the first things he said was "Oh no, I hope this doesn't turn out to be another Grant Hill case." Obviously, there are some similarities. Former Piston, and current Magic forward Grant Hill injured his ankle in his final game as a Piston, and has never been the same since that time.

Personally, I don't see a similarity between the two situations. Hill had an injury in which he had thoroughly destroyed his ankle... and made it worse by playing on it immediately after the injury. The entire network of muscles and tendons around the ankle had to be surgically re-constructed (not just repaired, mind you).

Because he was a free agent, I think he was fairly quiet at the time about the seriousness of the injury. Once the Magic's doctors (who probably were a little red-faced about not catching the severity of the injury) felt the injury was sufficiently healed, they pushed him back out onto the court. Of course, it turned out that it was too soon, and by over-exertion, Hill re-damaged what the surgery had repaired.

The problem is, that any time you have an injury the extent that Hill's was, you have less of the original material to work with. After a certain time, you have nothing to attach the muscle or tendon to. Unfortunately, that's about what Hill is looking at right about now in his career.... as well as a series of asking himself "What could have been".

As I said, there is no similarity between the two situations. Rogers will return to the Lions next season as good as new. The Lions would have liked for their top receiver to have a year on the field under his belt, and the team is disappointed that this will not happen this year.

In the long run, however, this injury could be a good thing for Rogers. To compare it to his college days, one could call this a medical red-shirt year. When Rogers does return to the field next season, he will have had two full seasons to refine his game. He'll have had two full seasons to watch and study NFL defenses close up. He'll have had two full seasons to discover what he needs to excel at this level. He'll have two full seasons of pent-up aggressions to take out on the field. He'll be two years smarter, and two years hungrier, and that will only make him better. Add this to his already high natural talent , and Rogers could be unstoppable.

One thing that the Lions will need to work on with Rogers before the next season has become painfully obvious. Rogers needs to learn how to take a hit better. In both injuries, he came down hard directly onto his shoulder. Some feel that the injury was caused as much by the force of the impact on the shoulder as by being hit by the defender. There are times when the person being tackled is powerless to change how he lands, but most times, this is not the case. Rogers needs to learn to take a fall so that he lands flat on his chest or back instead of on his shoulder. Maybe this was never an urgent matter at any level up until now for Rogers, where he could simply outrun most would-be tacklers, but he should have been taught this much earlier in his career.

The future still should be very bright for Charles Rogers. After all, he will still only be 23 at the start of next season. He's got a lot of football in front of him. Hopefully, he can learn from this experience to make himself a better player.

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