Ex-Vol WR Rogers trying to make most of 2nd chance


Ex-Vol WR Rogers trying to make most of 2nd chance

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers said he is maturing as a person. His football future depends on it.

The former all-Southeastern Conference standout, who said he left Tennessee after being suspended for positive drug tests, continues to show there is no question about his ability.

Rogers has 34 receptions for 562 yards and five touchdowns in Tennessee Tech's first five games. He already owns single-game school records for catches and receiving yards.

``It's the same old me, just in a more mature sense,'' the former Tennessee star said. ``I have a different mentality about life and how you approach things.''

Nobody questions Rogers' talent.

He led the SEC with 67 catches and ranked second in the conference with 1,040 receiving yards to earn all-conference honors with the Volunteers last season. Rogers was expected to team up with Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson this year to give Tennessee one of the nation's most dynamic receiving units.

Those plans unraveled less than two weeks before the start of the season when Rogers was suspended indefinitely. His transfer to Tennessee Tech was announced four days later. Because Tennessee Tech is a Football Championship Subdivision program, Rogers was eligible to play for his new team immediately.

Rogers remains a legitimate NFL prospect because of his rare combination of size (6-foot-3 and 206 pounds) and athleticism, but he can't repeat the mistakes that caused his move from the SEC to the Ohio Valley Conference. As a junior, Rogers would be eligible to enter the draft next year.

``It's your second chance, but it's your last chance,'' Rogers said.

His new teammates and coaches say he's making the most of it.

Rogers set school single-game records for catches (18) and receiving yards (303) two weeks ago in a 41-38 double-overtime loss to Southeast Missouri State. He is putting up his impressive stats despite facing constant double-teams and occasional triple-teams.

Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, who coached Atlanta Falcons star Roddy White at UAB, said he has never seen one receiver get this much attention from opposing defenses.

``No one can guard him in this league one-on-one,'' Tennessee Tech quarterback Tre Lamb said. ``They know that. We're pretty much playing 10-on-9 because they have to put two people on him.''

Brown said Rogers also is making the right decisions off the field.

Before adding Rogers to the team, Brown spoke with Tennessee Tech's seniors to make sure they had no problem with it. Brown then established ground rules with Rogers, though they won't specify the nature of those conditions.

``He's been perfect off the field,'' Brown said. ``He's gone to class. He's doing what he's supposed to do. It's been fantastic. We've had not one issue with Da'Rick whatsoever. He's trying his best to mature.''

Rogers picked Tennessee Tech in part because of his familiarity with the roster. He played at Calhoun (Ga.) High School with Lamb and Tennessee Tech running back Adam Urbano. Lamb's father is Calhoun High coach Hal Lamb, who spoke with Brown before the transfer was finalized.

``I think being dismissed by Tennessee has really opened his eyes,'' Hal Lamb said. ``For him to get to the next level, which has been his goal since Day One, he was going to have to straighten up and start doing things the right way.''

Having friends on Tennessee Tech's offense helped Rogers adapt. Three days after his transfer was announced, Rogers caught a touchdown pass in a victory over Hampton.

``It goes a long way,'' Rogers said. ``I'm not concerned coming in what's my quarterback going to be like, what's my running back going to be like. I'm good with that. The only thing I have to focus on is staying clean, staying straight with everything that's going on, learning the playbook and making plays for my team.''

The biggest adjustment involves his surroundings.

After performing in a stadium with a seating capacity of 102,455 last year, Rogers has played in front of fewer than 10,000 fans in three of his first five games this season.

``Football's football,'' Rogers said. ``You just line up and play ball. But you can never replace the atmosphere, the Vol Walk and all those things. Running through the `T' (with) 100,000 people screaming, it gets pretty crazy. That's the biggest thing. It took a while to adapt, but it's been good here. Everyone here has welcomed me as family.''

One thing his new team and old team have in common is both are winless in conference play. While Tennessee has lost its first two SEC games without Rogers, Tennessee Tech (2-3, 0-2 Ohio Valley) has struggled as its injury-ravaged defense has allowed 43.8 points per game.

Rogers believes his new team will improve, and he also continues to follow his former squad. But he still hasn't contacted any Tennessee coaches to establish closure in that relationship.

``I haven't talked to them,'' Rogers said. ``I probably will along down the line as the season's ended. Right now, I'm just letting the coaches do their thing.''

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Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

NBC Sports Washington

Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

I haven’t felt this way since my father passed last April. I’m not comparing the two, at all, but there were some similarities.

Rich Tandler had life experience. Few people accomplish what he did; total life reinvention. 

Think about that. 

After raising his two successful children and a lifetime in the restaurant business, Tandler created a blog. That blog became big enough to eventually become a full-time job, and over time, put him on television and send him all over the world. 

That’s wild. 

We get so caught up in the “startups” and “disruptors” from Silicon Valley that we missed a true internet success story in Rich Tandler. Our world has become extra cynical. The loudest snark wins, especially on the internet. 

Tandler didn’t trade in those currencies. 

He provided good, quality information. He provided insight and analysis from six decades of obsessing over a football team. 

And fans loved him for it. 

The outpouring from folks that read "Need to Know" or listened to the podcast has been incredible. I’ve been flooded with messages from people, and one overwhelming response is that while they didn’t really know Tandler, they feel like they did.

Well, I was lucky to know him pretty well. And his persona on air was the same way off air. 

Tandler helped me a in a lot of ways. I can be impulsive and have a temper, Tandler would calm me down. Whenever I had something important to say, news to break or a sharp angle of criticism, I would run it by Tandler first. Sometimes, maybe often, I would say too much, and he would reign me in. 

Tandler loved pointing out mistakes. If the universe gave honorary degrees for pointing out minor math errors in salary cap blog posts, Tandler would have a Ph.D. 

He was smart and he was sharp. Good natured but feisty. 

He could dish it out plenty in a media room full of alphas. And he literally dished it out; Tandler controlled all the plastic utensils and paper plates that every media member used at Redskins Park. When we were running low on forks, Tandler would put out some not too subtle calls to action. 

I think for a while he considered the podcast an annoyance, but somewhere along the way, we had a breakthrough. He realized its potential, and everywhere we went, listeners came up and told us how much they enjoyed it. 

That made an impact on RT. And seemingly overnight, he was all in. That’s when things really started to gain steam. Wherever I am in my career, Tandler played a huge role in it. 

But that kind of doesn’t matter now. We will keep the pod going but it will never be the same. Not better, not worse, but way, way different. Same thing with writing and TV. The show will go on, but it won't be the same. It will never be the same. 

In the hours since I learned of Tandler’s passing, I’ve done some reading. I drank a bunch. And I ended up landing on some YouTube videos. 

The one I kept going back to was Jimmy V’s famous ESPY speech. Before he died, Jimmy V implored us all to think, laugh and cry every day, and that would lead to a good, full life. 

If there was ever a dude that laughed, it was Rich Tandler. 

His belly laugh was contagious, and his wit was superior. There were the wacky Tandler’s Got Jokes, and the sly one liners about players, plays and our road antics. 

It wasn’t all laughter either. Tandler was smart as hell, and he was always thinking about new ways to present content for Redskins fans. 

Seriously, our organization employs an army of young and talented digital-first thinkers. And Tandler generated more web traffic than all of them. He constantly tried to figure out why people would read something, or the optimal time for us to drop a new podcast. 

Where I’m an idea guy, Tandler was all execution. I’m a terrible planner and constantly late. Tandler would be on time and busting my chops about our lack of schedule. It’s just how we operated. 

As for crying, Tandler didn't do it much. I did see him tear up from laughing a few times, and once because it was real windy when we were taping a segment and something got in his eye. 

I’m not much of a crier either. I’m glad that Jimmy V was, but it’s just not me. 

Thinking about Tandler though in the last 36 hours, there have been some truly hard moments. He was kind and gracious. A true gentleman. 

He never took personal shots at the team we cover, or their front office. Plenty do. He would certainly say when things were bad, and say it loudly. He was binary in a world full of context. 

He was a good dude. He was my coworker, my partner and my friend. 

And damn if it isn’t getting dusty in here all of a sudden. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."