As Washington’s once-sparkling 2008 season ended in mediocrity, cornerback Carlos Rogers was seething. Rogers, who had been benched in Week 15, said he didn’t want to remain with the Redskins in 2009 if he was going to be a backup.
A chat with ever-upbeat coach Jim Zorn had Rogers heading home feeling better about his place on the team. That role became clarified in Rogers’ favor on Friday when the Redskins cut veteran cornerback Shawn Springs and his $6 million base salary after re-signing DeAngelo Hall, whose November arrival disrupted the dynamics at the position.
“It was never that I didn’t like playing for the Redskins, but if all of us were coming back, I didn’t want to be there because I would be a backup,” Rogers said this weekend from Atlanta, where he became a father for the first time last week.
Rogers came back way ahead of schedule from major knee surgery in November 2007 to play at a Pro Bowl level in the first half of the 2008 season. But when Washington signed two-time Pro Bowl pick Hall on Nov. 6, there were four corners (counting former starter Fred Smoot) and only two starting jobs. And when Springs was fully healthy again Dec. 14 in Cincinnati, defensive coordinator Greg Blache demoted Rogers.
“It was like, ‘Let’s put Shawn in there. He’ll go out there and make some plays,’ but Cincinnati, one of the worst teams in the league, tore us up,” Rogers said.
Rogers started at safety against Philadelphia in place of Chris Horton but was benched for the season finale at San Francisco.
“In the Philly game, we got back to the way we play, playing with that swag. And we won,” Rogers said. “Then we got to San Francisco, and it wasn’t the same and we lost.”
Instead of being critical of Rogers’ attitude, Zorn reassured him.
“It made me a feel lot better,” Rogers said. “Coach Zorn’s whole thing was, ‘You’re my starter. I want your mindset to be that you’re coming back and that you’re going to be the starter no matter who’s here.’ ”
Zorn said last week that if the Redskins hadn’t been able to re-sign Hall, Springs still would be with the club. Either way, Rogers’ job was secure.
Secondary coach Jerry Gray remains close to Rogers, but the 27-year-old Auburn product hasn’t talked to Blache since the year ended and doesn’t feel a need to do so.
“With how things have panned out, there’s probably nothing for me and him to talk about,” Rogers said. “He felt that Shawn could make these plays and catch the ball. But every top receiver I faced, I shut down. … Look at the guys in the Super Bowl. [Arizona All-Pro] Larry Fitzgerald had 37 yards on me until we went two-deep and he caught the long ball [on safety Reed Doughty]. I shut down [Pittsburgh Super Bowl MVP] Santonio Holmes until he caught that quick pass for 5 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter.”
Rogers, the ninth pick in the 2005 draft, is looking forward to being part of a regular tandem with Hall and to playing with newly signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. But Rogers remains indebted to Springs, who reportedly visited the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“DeAngelo’s a cool guy to be around,” Rogers said. “With the two of us and Smoot, we can be one of the best. Haynesworth’s going to help everybody. We won’t have to cover as long. We were fourth in the league on defense last year. We should be competing to be No. 1 this year.
“I’ll miss Shawn. He did a lot for me. My first two years, I was just out there playing. I got better and better, but I was just playing. Shawn can see a formation and be like, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ He really taught me to study film so I could play faster. Instead of reacting to what you see, you can anticipate and jump the route.”