Skip to main content

Rogers returns, but can big man make Browns big winners?

BEREA, Ohio -- Veering to the middle of the Cleveland Browns' locker room, which was buzzing as players dressed for practice, nose tackle Shaun Rogers leaned most of his humongous frame on an industrial fan serving as his temporary podium.

Impressive fan. Imposing man.

Arguably Cleveland's best player and easily its most dominant, Rogers, the Browns' bigger-than-big man returned to practice this week after sitting out training camp with a leg injury that cost him the final five games last season. He's not in game shape yet, but he's getting there.

Beware, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You, too, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and others.

"He's 380 pounds and runs like the wind," BrownsPro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said of Rogers. "There aren't many people like that."

In case they had forgotten what a disruptive force Rogers can be to an offense, the 6-foot-3, 350-and-then-some pounder spent Wednesday's practice tossing Cleveland's linemen around like they were stuffed animals. With Rogers clogging the middle, tying up two blockers at a time, the Browns' first-team offense barely budged the ball.

Evading Mount Rogers ain't easy.

"He was excited. That's the big guy," defensive end Robaire Smith said. "It was great to see him out there. It's too bad he had to throw some of our teammates around before the game."

Before agreeing to speak with reporters Thursday, Rogers hadn't formally addressed the media in nearly one year. He broke his left leg during a Nov. 29 game at Cincinnati and had surgery, although the Browns haven't commented on the operation of severity of his injury.

Rogers, not fully recovered, was sidelined all summer, relegated to riding a stationary bike as the Browns prepped for the season. On Wednesday, the team practiced inside its field house, which was balmier than usual. Coach Eric Mangini turned up the thermostat to simulate Central Florida's swampy conditions, which the Browns likely will encounter Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Rogers felt the heat.

"Sucking wind," he said.

After backup Ahtyba Rubin played so well filling in for Rogers late last season, the Browns have kicked around the idea of playing them together, with Rubin at nose tackle and Rogers shifted to end in Cleveland's 3-4 scheme. Rogers took all his snaps at nose tackle Wednesday, but he said he's open to moving outside.

"I'll do whatever they ask of me," he said. "It's still a process that we're going through to try and get the best me out there. So whatever I'm allowed to do (because of the injury) and whatever they think is best is what we're going to do. If that's what they ask me to do.

"It's D-line. As long as they don't ask me to play wideout, we'll be all right."

Rogers' best hasn't translated into team success during his NFL career.

Losing has a steely grip on him.

In nine seasons with the Detroit Lions and the Browns, Rogers' record is a combined 40-104 with zero winning seasons. His best year was 2007, when the Lions went 7-9. The losses have resulted in Rogers being labeled "the best player on bad teams."

He'd like to change that.

"Every year, I want to be on a winner," Rogers said. "It takes an individual -- let's see how can I put this so y'all (reporters) don't mess this up. Individually, you have to do your part, so providing the best me I feel is always the right way to go.

"It's always frustrating to lose, but again, this game builds character in so many forms. All I do is play hard and try to win."

Cleveland's defense actually improved while Rogers, 31, was sidelined last season. With him, the Browns allowed 159 rushing yards per game. Without him, they gave up 110. The drop could be a coincidence or a sign that Cleveland could survive with Rubin at nose tackle.

Asked about Rogers' inside impact, Mangini didn't take long to shift his praise toward Rubin.

"He's got good size, and he ties up a lot of blockers as well," Mangini said. "That's what you are looking for from that spot.

Rogers has mentored Rubin, a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 who anchored Cleveland's defense during the season-ending, four-game winning streak that saved Mangini's job. During that stretch, the Browns held their opponents under 100 yards three times and allowed only one individual 100-yard rushing performance.

"I'm real proud of him," Rogers said of Rubin. "We've worked together, and I've tried to give him as much knowledge as I can, and he's using it, and he's done very well."

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who came to the team as a free agent from the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, had only heard about Rogers and seen him on tape before lining up behind him at practice.

Fujita was floored.

"For him to come in and do the things he can do with the amount of power he has, it's pretty special," Fujita said.

Alex Mack can attest to that. Cleveland's second-year center cut his teeth working against Rogers, a gifted athlete who can dunk a basketball. Mack said Rogers belongs to a small, elite fraternity of nose tackles, along with Kris Jenkins of the New York Jets and Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots.

"You see how big he is, and someone who moves as fast as he does, it's hard to stop," Mack said. "A lot of guys are big and run stoppers, and other guys are quick. He's kind of both, which makes it way harder to deal with him. He's moving fast, he's heavy.

"He's the best I've ever seen."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.