BEREA — Linebacker Scott Fujita had never practiced with nose tackle Shaun Rogers in front of him prior to Wednesday.
“Some things he did were pretty impressive,” Fujita said Thursday. “That amount of power and athleticism is pretty special.”
End Robaire Smith has played next to Rogers for two years, but still came away impressed with the Wednesday performance. Rogers missed training camp and the preseason as he recovered from a broken ankle suffered Nov. 29 against Cincinnati.
“It was great to see him out there,” Smith said. “It’s too bad he had to throw some of our teammates around before the game.”
According to the players, Rogers dominated the line of scrimmage, severely limiting the offense’s ability to run. The Browns hope he can have the same instant impact Sunday in the opener at Tampa Bay.
“It most definitely feels good,” he said. “I love to play the game. It’s always encouraging and fun to be out there.”
The cameras, microphones and tape recorders converged on Rogers in the middle of the locker room Thursday before practice. He doesn’t enjoy interviews, but was about to formally speak with reporters for the first time in more than nine months.
The special occasion: His return to practice and the start of the season.
To make himself more comfortable as the mob moved closer — and to get a little personal space — Rogers leaned on a fan at least 6 feet wide. A giant man and a giant fan. Both move pretty fast once they get warmed up.
“It’s still a process that we’re going through to try and get the best me out there,” he said. “So, whatever I’m allowed to do and whatever they think is best is what we’re going to do.”
Rogers was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but coach Eric Mangini said he’s following a natural progression. Mangini expects him to play against the Buccaneers and he’s listed as the starter on the depth chart.
Smith said Rogers looked like his normal freakish self Wednesday.
“Shaun being Shaun,” he said. “When he’s not in there, there’s a big void.”
In size and skill.
Rogers is listed at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds but is probably closer to 380 after missing training camp. The forecast calls for the temperature to be around 90 degrees in Tampa, Fla., so he might need more breaks than usual.
That isn’t the issue it once was, with Ahtyba Rubin proving himself a capable replacement in the final month last season. Rubin will see considerable time at nose tackle, allowing Rogers to play some end and be one of the pass-rushing linemen in nickel situations.
“Rubin is a solid nose tackle and it looks like he’s going to play this game for a long time,” Rogers said. “I’m real proud of him. 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.”
Rogers has spent his career on the interior of the line, but said he’s willing to try end.
“If that’s what they ask me to do,” he said. “It’s D-line. As long as they don’t ask me to play wideout, we’ll be all right.”
Center Alex Mack caught a break when Rogers spent camp on the stationary bike. No one needs to take that pounding on a daily basis.
“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.”
Despite the unique talents that made him a Pro Bowler in 2004, ’05 and ’08, Rogers, 31, hasn’t played on a winning team since he left the University of Texas. In seven years with Detroit and two with the Browns, he’s 40-104. His best finish was 7-9.
“Every year I want to be on a winner,” he said. “It takes individual, let’s see how can I put this so ya’ll 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.”
Veteran offensive lineman Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack walked by after a few minutes and interrupted, giving Rogers a chance to end the interview session. He jumped on it.
“What took you so long?” he asked Womack.
- Who: Cleveland at Tampa Bay
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
- TV/radio: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.