Rogers helping point way for maturing SF defense
Carlos Rogers has found a new home with the 49ers. Looking for a fresh start after six unfulfilling seasons in Washington, the seventh-year cornerback has stepped in and become a key part of San Francisco’s rugged defense, adding a bit veteran “swag” to the unit. Rogers gets his first shot Sunday to go up against the Redskins, who weren’t willing to make a long-term commitment to keep him around.
Rogers sat alone on the ground eating a pre-practice turkey burger this week, facing San Francisco's empty practice field and soaking in the California sunshine on a spectacular fall day.
What a drastic difference from the November weather he would be enduring in Washington.
''It'd be cold. It snowed last week,'' Rogers said with a grin. ''I'm so happy with these surroundings, Washington is not even on my mind.''
Rogers is loving every minute of his new adventure out West. So much so that the cornerback has already made it clear he wants to stay put on a long-term deal rather than test free agency after this season.
''I wouldn't want to be any other place,'' Rogers said this week.
The 30-year-old Rogers spent his first six NFL seasons in the nation's capital and had 43 tackles and two interceptions last season – and several near-interceptions he knows that should have been.
Rogers grew tired of the constant comparisons in Washington. All the questions about how he stacked up against fellow defensive backs Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot or DeAngelo Hall.
Good thing new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh refuses to compare anybody. He preaches that his players only need to be themselves in order to flourish in his system.
And it sure is a good fit for Rogers, who made three interceptions in a three-game stretch this season and will certainly be geared up for another big game when he returns to Washington on Sunday to face his former Redskins, who have lost three consecutive games after a 3-1 start.
The ninth player taken overall in the 2005 draft, Rogers has given San Francisco a reliable, athletic cornerback to replace Nate Clements, who was released by the 49ers in a cost-cutting move before training camp.
Rogers wasn't someone Washington had in the plans.
''I liked him as a person. He was wanting that big payday, and we weren't going to go in that direction,'' Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. ''We weren't going to make that type of commitment long-term. And I'm hoping for him that he does get that with some football team, maybe the 49ers. ... If he was as consistent as we would have liked, then we would have signed him long-term.''
Rogers endured the challenges he faced with the Redskins by telling himself he would get his chance to leave and find a better situation elsewhere – and what a move it has been for him in 2011.
There's a new culture under Harbaugh, who has the 49ers – 6-1 with a five-game winning streak – off to their best start since 1998 and poised to end an eight-year stretch without a playoff berth or winning record.
''Just all around different, starting from the ownership, general manager, the coaches, especially the defensive coaches,'' Rogers said. ''I was ready to leave. My whole mindset was just get out of Washington, get a fresh start. ... That was a new coaching staff. I was ready to leave Washington before they even got there. I can take a lot of good stuff from Washington, a lot of coaches I still have relationships with, a lot of friends I still have relationships with, the fans are wonderful. It's nothing bitter toward them. I just want to beat them for bragging rights when I play them. It's a waste of time to be mad at those guys. ''
Playing for a winner has been a thrill for Rogers, who impressed Harbaugh right away when they first spoke.
It was Rogers who suggested to the coaches that they pick a practice squad player of the week and give that person a game ball like the ones passed out to the standout on offense, defense and special teams.
''Just liked what he was saying. Liked where he was coming from and liked his attitude. Liked his ability as well,'' Harbaugh said. ''He wanted to be part of a team. He wanted to be where it was about football. He wanted to compete, didn't want anything handed to him.''
Rogers has done his part – getting his own game ball for a key interception in a 13-8 win at Cincinnati on Sept. 25. That was the first of three consecutive games with an interception for Rogers, including one he returned 31 yards for a touchdown in a 48-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 9.
''I haven't talked to him in the last couple of weeks, but he was calling me after every interception,'' Hall said, noting he expects Rogers to try to make a statement Sunday, saying, ''Absolutely, I would.''
Rogers dreamed of that pick six ahead of time – and, strangely enough, so did his father, David.
And he celebrated with his version of the ''The Dougie,'' a hip-hop, shimmy dance in which one passes a hand through their hair or over their head.
''It's a California dance, actually, yeah it is,'' Rogers said, chuckling, when asked about the move he learned on TV. ''It's a known dance. ... Oh no, I can't do it right now.''
He gained a few more fans among his teammates in the process.
''He was good. He did his thing. He showed his sugar and swayed it up,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. ''Carlos, man, he got swag. That's what we needed on our defense to help out Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner and just all the other guys. It's showing. It's a blessing to have him here. I knew what he could do just by watching his earlier years and now that we've got him, he's showing up for us. The guy studies, works hard, he's always prepared and trying to get better. You're going to see more of that. You're going to see more interceptions from this guy.''
Rogers expects an interception out of himself every Sunday. He believes he has the hands, the instincts, the skills to do it.
''I feel that way. It's so funny, I dropped a lot of picks and now guys are just expecting me to have a pick,'' Rogers said. ''That's crazy. My whole thing is I just go into every game just thinking, `Play with confidence and take advantage of all my opportunities.' If a pick comes, it comes and I just need to be there and make the play. Throughout my career I always had opportunities. I was always around the ball, I just dropped the ball. Now I'm just taking advantage of my opportunities.''