As he prepares for his return to Washington where he spent the past six tumultuous seasons, cornerback Carlos Rogers is loving life.
His surprising San Francisco 49ers have a four-game lead in the NFC West and he has three interceptions in seven games, just five fewer than he registered in 78 games (68 starts) for the Redskins, who didn’t try to re-sign him this summer.
“The interceptions, everybody just look at that, but just all-around play, it’s one of my real good seasons,” said Rogers, who was best known in Washington for dropping potential interceptions. “I’m relaxing, having fun, playing (carefree) football again. (They’re) putting in a lot of plays for me, being able to blitz, being able to sit in some zones.”
Those three interceptions are as many as the entire Redskins secondary has totaled during its seven games. Only six NFL players have more picks than Rogers, whom the Redskins selected ninth overall in the 2005 draft.
“You always miss having a guy like Carlos around,” said DeAngelo Hall, who started opposite Rogers the past 2-1/2 seasons and lives near him in Atlanta during the offseasons. “He’s funny, entertaining and a good football player and he’s finally starting to catch the ball. We could use that. He calls me after every interception so I I knew he had a lot.”
As was reported in this space back in the spring, Rogers was planning to be an ex-Redskin as soon as he finally achieved unrestricted free agency. He noted today that six-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Chris Samuels, two-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley (and running back Ladell Betts) were the only Washington draft picks who received new long-term deals during his tenure.
Likely Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, receiver Rod Gardner, cornerback Fred Smoot, quarterback Patrick Ramsey and guard Derrick Dockery were all traded or allowed to leave as free agents.
Rogers, always one to speak his mind, was part of coach Mike Shanahan’s cleansing of the locker room of such independent thinkers as Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis.
“I liked Carlos as a person,” Shanahan said. “He was wanting that big payday. We weren’t going to make that type of commitment (to him) long-term. If he was as consistent as we would’ve liked, we would’ve signed him long-term. We decided to go in a different direction. He’s playing well (for the 49ers).”
Shanahan praised Rogers’ replacement Josh Wilson, who doesn’t have an interception and whose seven passes defensed are two fewer than his predecessor has. However, Hall was much less effusive about Wilson, saying he hasn’t played with him long enough to critique his game. Odd since they’ve practiced together for three months and started together for seven games.
Cornerback Byron Westbrook arrived in Washington as a rookie free agent from Division III Salisbury State in 2007 and learned by watching the more polished Rogers and Shawn Springs.
“Carlos is gonna talk all the time, but you can’t blame him because him and his team (are) doing a good job this year,” Westbrook said. “I hope he has a good game, but not a real good game, drops some picks. He’s a good player, but hopefully we’ll go at him, get some completed balls, make sure he can tackle.”
The 49ers are certainly happy with Rogers, whom coach Jim Harbaugh said has “done a very good job.”
Rogers can add to that body of work with a big performance in his return to Washington, but he said Sunday’s game isn’t about proving the Redskins wrong.
“I’m past the Redskins,” said Rogers, who noted that he loved playing for coaches Joe Gibbs, Gregg Williams, Jerry Gray, Steve Jackson, Danny Smith and Bob Slowik. “I just want to go out there and have fun, play against my friends for bragging rights. I got no hatred towards the (current) coaches. With that coaching staff, my mindset was already to get out of Washington. I had some fun times in Washington, a lot of good relationship(s) with guys. The fans (are) unbelievable … saying how much they miss me.”
And the media who cover the Redskins, who voted Rogers the Good Guy Award last season, misses him, too.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.