published Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Tennessee receiver Da'Rick Rogers 'moving forward'

KNOXVILLE -- Making one-handed catches, gliding effortlessly through his routes and giving the illusion that football is an easy game, Da'Rick Rogers was his usual on-field self Monday morning.

Afterward, the Tennessee receiver told the media that all off the field is well also, though it hardly seemed so last week. In his first interview since late last season, the rising junior star candidly cleared the air about his latest behind-the-scenes trouble.

The Volunteers just hope he has turned the page and the corner.

"I think it's like every player -- it takes time," coach Derek Dooley said. "He's a human being. Da'Rick's going to make another mistake just like I will and everybody else will. But I know deep down, the core of Da'Rick, he loves Tennessee, he always has; he wants to be here; he wants to help the team win.

"Learning how to do that, every player has to figure it out."

Rogers missed practice last Thursday and had to complete some unspecified internal requirements to return Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound former Calhoun (Ga.) High School star spoke of his desire to move forward, though he had to go back into the recent past in Monday's interview.

"Oh, man, no controversy," the All-SEC receiver said. "Just had some little things to handle off the field, got those handled and now we're looking forward to moving forward and becoming a championship-contending team.

"I just had a few things on my own personally, and if I was a distraction, I really wasn't trying to be a distraction. It was a situation that we got handled, and everything is good now. As a team, we're focusing on moving forward."

At one point last week, rumors swirled that Rogers might be moving forward at Georgia State. He referenced the Panthers on his Twitter account, and the Scout.com site covering the program reported Rogers was in the process of transferring. Dooley shot those down last week, and Rogers said Monday there was "no consideration" of leaving UT.

"Maybe I need to do a little better job with tweets, letting everybody know what's really actually going on so next time it won't be misinterpreted," he added.

"I mean, sometimes you come to a point in your life where you have to be strong about things. I had a little weak moment, and that's gone behind me and behind the team now."

As for his two-week absence from the Vols' morning workouts in February, Rogers denied any issues with UT's strength and conditioning staff.

"That was all me focusing on things," he said. "I wanted to get a lot of school stuff done, and I got all that stuff done. Everything like that is right.

"No issues. Maybe a few misunderstandings, but nothing too serious that any football team around doesn't have."

Rogers noted a conversation he had with quarterback Tyler Bray and fellow receiver Justin Hunter in which they discussed getting "on the right track." Hunter, who continues to practice without setbacks as he returns from an ACL injury, kept referencing his teammate's desire to work.

"He's like our brother, so if he had a problem, we were going to be there to help him with it," Hunter said. "He just needed to calm down. The talk that we had with him put him at 110 percent, so he doesn't have any more distractions. He's a hard worker and he's ready to work.

"It's in the past. I know he's here to work now. He threw that out the window and he's ready."

Dooley said the important conversation is a reflection of the family feeling in UT's program.

"Those guys have got to play together and work together," the coach said. "They spend a lot of hours together, and they've got to be able to iron out any differences they have. But I know this: Everybody in our organization, there's a lot of love, and sometimes love is tough love and that's part of parenting. But that kind of player involvement is critical on a team."

Rogers' presence also is critical for the Vols' success. With Hunter and Bray hurt last season, he was UT's primary offensive weapon. He caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns despite playing on an offense with three different quarterbacks and the nation's 116th-ranked rushing attack.

"I think we're a lot better offense with him and Justin," fifth-year senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner said, using the phrase "no biggie" to describe the situation. "You can't really double either one because the other one will kill you. I think with both of them out there, our offense is explosive."

Dooley said Rogers' leash moving forward is no shorter than any other player's.

"We don't have different standards, despite what a lot of people think," he said. "Does that mean we treat everybody the same? No. We have some big-picture standards that it's black-and-white how we handle them, but how we manage it with each player is very different depending on what their personality is and depending on a lot of things.

"The leash is similar, but there's also a break point on every player's."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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