Rookie receiver Charles Rogers got off to a promising start last year with the Detroit Lions.
In his first regular-season game as a pro, he caught four passes and scored two touchdowns in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He added another touchdown catch three weeks later against the Denver Broncos.
Though five games, Rogers had 22 catches. He was averaging 11 yards per reception, and was starting to shown signs of being the big-play receiver the Lions envisioned when they chose the former Michigan State star with the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft.
Rogers season, though, was shattered on Oct. 7 when he suffered a broken right collarbone in practice. He got tangled with cornerback Dre Bly while going for the football. As the two players fell to the ground, Bly landed on Rogers.
The pain could be felt all the way to Pontiac, where the Lions used to play.
He was putting together a very productive rookie season when the injury happened, Lions coach Steve Mariucci said.
Rogers, the $55-million man, also was starting to get more and more comfortable with quarterback Joey Harrington, Detroit s No. 1 pick in 2002.
The two up-and-coming stars were beginning to bond in the team s West Coast offense.
He was starting to get a little more aggressive and make the kind of catches we saw from him in college, Harrington said. I saw very promising things from him, but then he got hurt.
The original prognosis called for Rogers to miss four-to-eight weeks. Team doctors decided against surgery and opted to let the injury heal on its own. When it did not, the Lions placed Rogeres on injured reserve on Dec. 2, ending his season. He missed the final 11 games.
Rogers spent the off-season healing and watching tapes of St. Louis Rams receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt work against his teammates. And he worked on increasing his strength to better deal with the physical aspect of the NFL.
Detroit drafted me high to come in and do some big things for the organization, Rogers said Saturday night after the Lions lost to the Cleveland Browns 17-10 in a preseason game. I m just trying to get back on track, and get back to where I was before I got injured.
I m more settled now than I was a year ago. I understand the playbook better. I am more comfortable in our system.
It should come as no surprise then that Rogers is off to another solid start. He has four catches for 66 yards and one touchdown in roughly two quarters of preseason action.
I m happy to be back out there on the field and contributing and being a part of the team atmosphere, he said. I m really excited about the upcoming season.
The addition of speedy receiver Roy Williams - the Lions seventh overall pick from Texas - should open up more big-play opportunities for Rogers.
I had some good things happen to me last year, he said, but I didn t get to put together a highlight reel, because I got hurt and missed a lot of the season.
Barring injury, Rogers looks on his way to becoming the explosive playmaker that has been absent in the Motor City since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders hastily retired before the start of the season five years ago.
By the time my career is over, I ll have some highlights worth talking about, Rogers promised.
There is no reason to doubt him.
He set an NCAA record by catching a touchdown pass in 14 consecutive games while at Michigan State. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation s top receiver in 2002. In two seasons, he caught 135 passes for 2,821 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Spartans.
Many believe the 6-3, 202-pound Rogers can put up similar numbers in the NFL, so long as he stays healthy. But he s only worried about helping lead the Lions back to the playoffs, where they haven t been since 1999, and haven t won a game since 1991.
If he pulls off that miracle, the Lions might honor Rogers with a statute outside Ford Field.
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