NASHVILLE – Toiling away in near anonymity on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad last season, Chester Rogers admits to wondering whether he’d ever return to an NFL 53-man roster.
Fractured kneecaps will do that to a man.
That was the nasty injury Rogers suffered in December of 2019, a setback that not only preceded his departure from Indianapolis, but also hampered him in a failed bid for a roster spot with Miami in 2020. He landed on the Titans’ practice squad in September of last season and remained there for the rest of the campaign. But the regular work on the practice squad didn’t eliminate his concerns for the future.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t (have doubts),” Rogers said Wednesday. “I didn’t know if I was going to recover back from my injury. I didn’t know if I was going to be the same player.”
One month into the season, Rogers has pushed those doubts aside, as he’s played a bigger role than many – perhaps even himself – might have envisioned coming into this year.
Through four games, the Huntsville, Ala., native has 12 catches, tied with Julio Jones for the most by Titans wide receivers. Seven of those catches have gone for first downs. Rogers has been targeted 19 times, tied with A.J. Brown for tops among the position group. And he’s been on the field for 171 snaps, a close second behind Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (174) among wide receivers.
“It feels good, but I can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Rogers said. “I’ve just got to stay even keeled. It’s a long season and the thing about the NFL, you’ve got to be consistent. If you do it for the first four weeks and not do it the rest, it doesn’t matter.
Rogers is coming off his best game for the Titans, as he caught five passes for 63 yards in last Sunday’s overtime loss to the Jets, aiding a team that was without both Brown and Jones.
The bond Rogers is building with Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill became especially clear late in the game. Consider:
• On fourth-and-10 late in the fourth quarter – in need of a first down to keep a potential game-tying drive alive – it was Rogers who Tannehill targeted deep down the middle of the field. Rogers drew a 22-yard pass-interference penalty, good for a first down, and sent the offense on its way to a touchdown.
• On third-and-21 in overtime, Rogers was Tannehill’s choice again, as the two connected on a 20-yard completion that set up a Derrick Henry conversion on fourth down.
• Rogers caught two more passes for a combined 21 yards (and had another catch negated by penalty) during the overtime drive, one that ultimately ended in Randy Bullock’s missed 49-yard field goal.
“We’re four games in and chemistry takes time,” Rogers said. “But we’re definitely building as the season goes on. In critical times, he’s got to go to the guys he trusts.”
Added Tannehill: “I try to just trust the guys that are out there to go do their job and make plays. It is football, so guys are going to be out, and as a quarterback, a lot of times you can’t hesitate or overthink things because maybe a piece is missing. You have to be able to go out, cut it loose, trust your guys to do their job, and make a play.”
Rogers is also making a quality special-teams contribution for the Titans, as his 13.3-yard average on punt returns is second-best in the league, trailing only Devin Duvernay (18.9-yard average) of the Ravens. The Titans averaged just nine yards per punt return last year, one of the lower marks in the league.
“Punt return is a weapon – I love it,” Rogers said. “I take that very personal. It’s a battle between me and the punter and my unit. I trust my unit. We’ve just got to stick to our details.”
Just as Rogers stuck with it last season.