As you might know from our position-by-position training camp previews, I am fascinated by the stories of the players on the fringes professional football. Sometimes, they have to move on to something completely new. Sometimes, they become the next Tony Siragusa, Dominic Rhodes, or Jerrell Freeman (There are many more, of course).
Today’s candidate for NFL legitimacy is attempting to rise from the ashes of his precipitous fall from first round prospect to undrafted underdog.
This week, 6’ 3” 215-pound rookie wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers found out he was making the jump to the active roster. “I found out yesterday,” he said on Tuesday. “Yesterday we had a little half-jog practice and they let me know.” Head Coach Chuck Pagano said the move was less about any dissatisfaction with the receiving corps and more about Rogers finally earning his shot.
“The guy has, like I said, done everything we’ve asked him to do to this point,” Pagano said. “He’s been coming in every morning an hour before. I’m sure you’ve talked to him about that. He spends extra time with (Wide Receivers) Coach Williams and Charlie has done a great job with him. Stays after. He’s steadily made progress. He’s a bright kid, picks things up.”
His attitude and need for better football fundamentals once threatened his career. That checkered past caused a first round talent to go undrafted, eventually being cut by the Bills, and eventually landing on the Colts practice squad.
Rogers has been putting in the extra work in Indianapolis though, showing up at 7:00 A.M., staying late, attending player film sessions with Andrew Luck. This doesn’t sound like some kid relying on his natural gifts. Many athletes with Rogers’ ability never understand the level of work and dedication it takes to reach the next level – to have any staying power, until it’s too late.
Rogers, however, wants to show that he is finally ready to be a pro. “Really just that the things that happened to me in the past, they’re in the past and that I’m here and I come to work hard and that I’m learning how to be a professional,” he said yesterday when asked what he wanted the Colts to see in him from the start.
One key difference for Rogers has been the Colts themselves. There’s a winning attitude and culture on West 56th Street, and Da’Rick is buying in. “Coming from a whole different program or organization and being here, it’s like night and day,” he said of Indianapolis. “You really see why certain programs and organizations win just off of the culture of the team.”
This is all great news right now as the team could use all the help it can get at wide receiver. Since Reggie Wayne’s injury, T.Y. Hilton has been the Andrew Luck’s most reliable receiver, snagging 14 passes on 20 targets for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns (40% of the passing offense), but they need a couple more to step up.
At this point, we don’t even know if Rogers will be active for Thursday Night Football in Nashville, but if he does get to play, he wants Luck to look at him and know, “That I can throw to this guy any time and he’s going to make a play for me. Really I just want to go in and be open for him and make the catch for him so he builds a little confidence in us.”
Rogers has taken a humbling journey to where he is now. Whether he’s a third down receiver, special teams player, or healthy scratch (lets’ hope it isn’t the latter) this week, he’ll be ready. “Put on a uniform and make a play whenever they tell me to,” he said, “simple as that.”
Andrew Luck being classy about all the hits he’s taken this year: “You know, I’m glad I’m still young. I realize the hits are part of the game. A lot of times it’s myself putting myself in the way of the hit in a sense. Our trainers do a great job. I’ve learned a lot from the older guys, the veterans, on how to take care of my body, so it’s alright.”
Luck on whether he faced Titans CB Alterraun Verner in college “Yes I did play him. I always had a very high amount of respect for him. You sort of learn about the different players when you play in college. He was always an All-Conference guy, an All-Academic, All-Conference. It’s great to see guys from the Pac-12 do well.”
Chuck Pagano on whether he plans on making any changes along the interior of the offensive line: “We’re set there. I know Mike (McGlynn) just missed a little time yesterday but practiced today with his thumb. He should be fine and good to go.”
Rogers putting his familiarity with Indy’s offense on a scale of 1 to 10: “Right now I’d say it’s about an eight. I come in here every morning, early, 7 a.m. and get with Coach C-Dub (Charlie Williams) and we go to work.” I love the nickname for the receivers coach there. Coach C-Dub.
Rogers on whether he feels like he’s gotten enough reps with Andrew Luck: “You can never have as much reps. There’s no telling how many reps Marvin Harrison and Peyton (Manning) and Reggie (Wayne) and those guys did. You can never have as much reps as you want, but we get as much as we can in.”