By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Veering to the middle of Cleveland’s 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 it’s 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, Buccaneers. You, too, Chiefs, Ravens and others.
“He’s 380 pounds and runs like the wind,” Browns Pro Bowl tackle
Joe Thomas said. “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 had not
formally addressed the media in nearly one year. He broke his
left leg in a Nov. 29 game at Cincinnati and had surgery,
although the team has not commented on the operation of severity
of his injury.
Not fully recovered, Rogers was sidelined all summer, relegated
to riding a stationary bike as the Browns prepped for the
season. On Wednesday, the team practiced inside their field
house, which was balmier than usual. Coach Eric Mangini turned
up the thermostat to simulate Central Florida’s swampy
conditions that the Browns will likely encounter on Sunday in
Rogers felt the heat.
“Sucking wind,” he said.
After backup Ahtyba Rubin played so well while filling in for
Rogers late last season, the Browns have kicked around 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 on Wednesday, but said he’s open to moving outside.
“I’ll do whatever they ask of me,” Rogers 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
Losing has a steely grip on him.
In his nine seasons with Detroit and Cleveland, Rogers’ record
is a combined 40-104 with zero winning seasons. His best year
came in 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 before
pausing. “It takes an 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
“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
Cleveland’s defense actually improved while the 31-year-old
Rogers 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 opponent under 100 yards three times and
allowed just one individual 100-yard rushing performance.
“I’m real proud of him,” Rogers said. “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 over as a free agent
from New Orleans, 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,” he said.
Alex Mack can attest to that. Cleveland’s second-year center cut
his teeth working against Rogers, a gifted athlete who can still
dunk. 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
“He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”