Somehow, the Lions missed it.
Somehow, it escaped their attention that the young stud receiver had some serious issues off the field.
It should have been all there, had the team done their due diligence. The implications, today, are that a young man two years shy of 30 might be a complete, total waste.
Charlie Rogers beamed that April day in 2003, holding up a Honolulu Blue jersey with the symbolic No. 1 running down its front. The Detroit Lions baseball cap rested on his mixed up, pot-addled head.
Lions President Matt Millen fired another blank.
Millen’s team, hard up for a serious talent that could catch passes from its young quarterback, Joey Harrington, wanted Michigan State’s Rogers so badly it hurt. The Lions drafted second overall. The Cincinnati Bengals, with the No. 1 overall pick off the board, were rumored to want hotshot QB Carson Palmer of USC.
Rogers would be the Lions’, after all.
There was some drama, though. The Lions didn’t submit the index card with Rogers’ name on it right away when their turn came to pick. They dilly-dallied a bit. Maybe another player was in the mix at the last moment—or a trade was in the works.
The index card was handed to Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who read Rogers’ name.
There was the usual hooting and hollering. Some of it could be heard at the draft in New York all the way from Detroit.
Lions fans wanted Rogers, too—for the most part. He was local, growing up in Saginaw. He was terrific in college. The football need only be thrown in his general direction and Charlie would do the rest. There was no telling what he could do in the NFL.
But the Lions missed it.
They missed the serious character flaw Rogers had. They missed it in the pre-draft interviews with him. They missed it when they looked at his college career in East Lansing. They missed it, or they refused to acknowledge it. Take your pick.
But Charlie Rogers was a Lion and that was all that mattered. Apparently.
In fairness, you can do all the prep work in the world—interviews until everyone turns blue, watching film until your eyes get bleary. The NFL Draft is the biggest sports crap shoot outside of Las Vegas.
The Lions, though, missed on Charlie Rogers so badly that their pick of him is likely among the 10 worst ever made in the history of the league.
Rogers caught two touchdown passes on Opening Day of his rookie year. One of them was a beauty—stretching out so that he was parallel to the turf, snaring the football in midair.
Turns out it wasn’t the first time Rogers went flying. Nor would it be the last.
Charlie Rogers was a pothead, and the Lions missed it. His reefer madness had been going on for quite some time at MSU, as it turned out. He was smoking weed and exercising poor judgment on a regular basis. The Detroit Free Press dug up the story: Rogers had failed drug tests in college. He was irresponsible and sometimes lazy on the football field.
But he had talent. Oh, but did he have talent. Rogers might have been the best pure pass catcher to ever play for the Spartans. He had hands like Velcro and the acrobatics of a circus performer.
The Lions drooled over him. Millen, never one to do all his homework, whether it came to draft picks or coaching hires, envisioned Rogers and Harrington forming a duet that would dazzle the league.
But Rogers broke his collarbone less than halfway through his rookie season. In Year Two, he suffered a very similar injury in the season’s first game.
In Year Three, Rogers failed an NFL drug test for a third time. He was suspended for four games.
It took the Lions that long to find out that their supposed prize receiver was a pothead—something that had been going on since high school.
It took another year before they realized that he wasn’t too bright, either.
In 2006, the Lions had a new offensive coordinator.
Mike Martz arrived in town with a three-ring binder bursting with pages of passing plays. He was a mad general of aerial attacks. There was something not quite right about him, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. He was kind of strange. Yet we were glad he was with the Lions. Perhaps he could help revive a boring, popgun offense.
Martz started throwing his myriad of plays at the receivers and one of them was lagging behind: the talented pothead Charlie Rogers.
Rogers plodded through training camp that summer. He wasn’t impressing Martz in the least. There were whispers that Rogers lacked the mental capacity to grasp Martz’s complicated offense.
The Lions cut Charlie Rogers at the end of training camp in 2006.
He never played a down of football after that.
His short-lived NFL career consisted of 15 total games in three seasons. The Lions sued him for breach of contract after they learned of his drug consumption. They may as well have sued a stone.
Today, Rogers is being sucked further and further into the abyss.
He’s alone, it seems. His behavior has been erratic, to put it kindly. He keeps getting arrested. Twice, the police have found him passed out in his car, under the influence of drugs or alcohol—most recently on January 5 of this year. He was accused of assault and battery on a woman he knew in 2008; the charges were later dropped.
Rogers’ life is in complete disarray. He has no talent beyond football. He isn’t very smart. He’s only 28 years old and he’s perilously close to being a total waste.
That’s sad enough, but what’s worse is that Charlie Rogers doesn’t appear to have a support system; no one has taken him under their wing. No one has stepped forward and linked their name to his in the form of help. He has no advocate, no spokesperson.
And that’s what is saddest of all when it comes to Charlie Rogers. He had all sorts of “friends” when he was making the big bucks and flitting around as a hotshot NFL receiver.
Now he has no one.
If he does, then I apologize. But those folks aren’t doing a very good job with him, apparently. Rogers isn’t getting any better—he’s getting much, much worse.
Ryan Leaf, the quarterback drafted from Washington State in 1998 who might be the biggest NFL Draft bust of all time, was just sentenced for some felonies involving drugs.
So you never truly know what you’re getting when you hand that index card to the commissioner on draft day.
But the Lions should have caught the Rogers thing before they drafted him. They were so blinded by the kid’s talent that they failed to see his foibles.
Now look at him.