Despite spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Lions, Rogers said he feels no special emotions about returning to Detroit for the first time as a visiting player.
Cleveland challenges the Lions in a battle of 1-8 teams Sunday at Ford Field.
“I’ve been out of Detroit, what, two years now?” Rogers said. “It’s not special. I’m just going to play a game.”
It’s easy to see why the defensive behemoth doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy about his stay in Motown, nor is all smiles about his initial visit there with the Browns.
Though Rogers has long established himself as one of the sport’s best interior linemen, he has never played on a team that finished with a winning record.
The Lions went 31-81 during his lengthy tenure, topping out at 7-9 in his farewell season of 2007. The Browns are 5-20 since his arrival on March 1, 2008.
Add it all together and Rogers’ professional squads are 36-101, which averages out to 4-12 annually.
“It’s always tough to lose,” he admitted. “If you lose at Tiddlywinks, it’s tough if you are a true competitor. It’s just something that you have to live with. You have to look yourself in the mirror and try to see if you have done what you needed to do and put a positive spin on it from that direction. It is what it is.”
So is Rogers’ individual record, which is quite impressive.
Despite being on terrible teams, the 6-foot-4, 360-pounder has earned three trips to the Pro Bowl — the most recent coming last year with Cleveland. He continues to play at a high level in 2009, even as the Browns steamroll toward one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
“I think he’s played well in all the games,” Cleveland coach Eric Mangini said. “He makes a lot of plays and, at 360, that’s not easy to do. His motor runs high and he can be disruptive in the 3-4 (defense) and in off-sets. Shaun finds a way to get things done.”
Wide receiver Mike Furrey has teamed with Rogers in three of the last four years, linking back with him in Cleveland this season. Furrey said he heard some players say “Big Baby” didn’t go all-out all the time, but quickly found that to be untrue.
“Shaun is a big dude, but when he’s out there and doing his thing, he’s full-go and he’s got a huge heart,” he said. “Some people say he lacks the passion, but I’m telling you right now, he gives everything he has.
“He’s one of the most dominant linemen I’ve ever seen in my career. I’ve been fortunate to play with him.”
Even in Detroit, where Rogers didn’t leave on the best of terms, his reputation is stellar.
First-year Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he has designed part of his game plan around neutralizing Rogers. He previously matched up with him while working as an assistant on Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher’s staff.
“He’s very well respected in this building from the time he spent here,” Schwartz said. “Just about everybody has good things to say about him, not just as a football player, but as a person, as a worker and all those things.
“He’s been incredibly durable. He’s a big man and he’s really hard to move.”
Though Rogers professes not to care what others think about him, it was telling that he agreed to do an optional conference call with Detroit’s beat writers. He spent some time dissecting what went wrong in 2007 when the Lions’ season deteriorated, leading to his trade to the Browns.
“There was a lot of finger-pointing at myself (with the Lions), but I don’t think I lost or won any games by myself,” Rogers said. “We just didn’t play well as a team.”
Though Cleveland has not won many games since he came aboard, Detroit has been much worse. The Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 last season and are 1-8 this fall.
“I guess it wasn’t all me then,” Rogers said, quickly adding. “I enjoyed playing in Detroit, as I do enjoy playing in Cleveland. You make the most out of wherever you’re at and you try to create positive memories.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.