Carlos Rogers found himself standing with the ball in the Candlestick Park end zone last month. He had intercepted a pass — Oh my gosh, yes, he held onto it — and ran it back 31 yards for a score. He had a touchdown dance all planned out, The Dougie. But before he could start the party, he asked himself: "Am I really here?"
Yes, he held on to the ball. Yes, he was in the end zone. Yes, he was in a San Francisco 49ers uniform. The Washington Redskins' first-round pick in 2005 has moved on, and life is good.
"I'm past the Redskins," he said during a teleconference Wednesday. "I'm over them."
Rogers will return to FedEx Field on Sunday riding the momentum of his significant contributions to San Francisco's 6-1 start. Cast off by Redskins coach Mike Shanahan last offseason, Rogers already has three interceptions - more than the entire Redskins secondary.
Those stone hands of his have become a bit softer on the West Coast. All the negativity that tarnished his final seasons in Washington has dissipated. A fresh start, it seems, has done him good.
"Just relaxing, having fun, playing football again," he said. "That's most important."
Coach Joe Gibbs drafted Rogers ninth overall out of Auburn in 2005, and he went on to start 68 of a possible 96 regular-season games.
He was widely regarded as a capable cover cornerback, but he had only eight interceptions in six seasons. He had butterfingers, the drops — whatever you want to call it. He would position himself to intercept passes, but too often he failed to finish the play.
It was maddening, really. Ultimately, that came to define him.
"People want to point out a few things that they felt he couldn't do," safety Reed Doughty said, "but I felt he was a good teammate, a good cover guy who could tackle."
Rogers also fought his share of battles with coaches over the years. Under defensive coordinator Greg Blache, he was benched in 2008 and again in 2009 after he was beaten for touchdowns on double moves by Philadelphia and Denver.
Through it all, he wasn't afraid to speak his mind. He'd needle the team's front office during its most dysfunctional periods. He also was willing to discuss his drops or mental errors.
Even when asked Wednesday about Sunday's game, he showed a sense of humor.
"I pretty much know they're going to try to come after me ... probably with some double moves," Rogers said with a laugh.
His time in Washington ran out shortly after Shanahan arrived. The new coach installed a 3-4 defense to force turnovers, and that never was Rogers' strength.
Rogers' contract expired at the end of last season. By then, both sides knew they would part.
"I liked him as a person, and he wanted a big payday and we weren't going to go in that direction," Shanahan said. "If he was as consistent as we would have liked, then we would have signed him long-term."
Rogers said he doesn't harbor any animosity. He still calls cornerback DeAngelo Hall each week to trade stories about their most recent games. He considers safeties coach Steve Jackson and special teams coach Danny Smith among his friends.
"I had some fun times in Washington," he said. "Even football, off the field, I had a lot of good relationships with guys on and off the field. The fans are unbelievable. They want to win."
But he's in a spot now where the team actually is winning. His old squad is still fighting a familiar fight, but he's not looking back.
"That's them," Rogers said. "They've got to deal with it. The team I'm on is 6-1, and we're headed in the right direction."
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