A bruiser who can't wait Rookie: Linebacker Ron Rogers is so eager to hit that he goes all-out even in practice, much to the chagrin of his teammates and coaches.

July 22, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Nobody has ever accused Ravens rookie linebacker Ron Rogers of not going full speed, even when he wasn't supposed to.

Rogers always has given his all playing football, so much so that coach George O'Leary had to kick him out of Georgia Tech practices for leveling teammates during drills.

"It seemed like every other day I was getting kicked out of practice," said Rogers, the first of the Ravens' two sixth-round picks in the April draft. "Coach would want me to go easy, but there are just times when it's hard. You get so excited and you just want to hit somebody. I think that Coach O'Leary understood and appreciated the effort, but he was trying to control practice. Sometimes you just want to go out there and have fun."

Rogers, 23, even used to get kicked out of practices in high school for going full force, so his bruising mentality hasn't been anything new. Rogers' hit-hard creed may be in his genes. His father, Ronnie, was a defensive lineman at Georgia from 1967-70 and was his first football coach when Ron began to play at age 12 in Dublin, Ga.

"My dad taught me everything about football," Rogers said. "He taught me that playing hard is the only way to play. He was pretty much my coach all through high school. I would look up into the stands and see him motioning for me to do something, but in college, it was harder to find him in the stands."

At Georgia Tech, Rogers was one-half of the "Bruise Brothers" linebacker duo with Keith Brooking, who was drafted in the first round, 12th overall, by the Atlanta Falcons. Rogers left Tech as the school's third-leading tackler (435). He had 145 tackles as a sophomore when he was chosen to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team, an honor he duplicated as a senior.

Rogers now finds himself in a different role, trying to catch up, learning a game new to him. Rogers couldn't attend Ravens minicamp in June because it coincided with his college exams, which made yesterday's first day of training camp his first real practice, although he did attend a three-day rookie camp in April.

"I am definitely at a disadvantage," he said. "But I think I am usually a fast learner and that, in a couple of days, after I learn the playbook, I'll be on the same level as everyone else."

Linebackers coach Maxie Baughan agreed.

"Ron is just like everybody else at this point, scrambling around and having to do a lot of thinking," said Baughan, who is a Tech alum and later coached at the school. "He understands what we want from him, but the other guys got 11 solid days of work behind them. It's the mental part he's going to have to catch up with, reacting, not thinking."

At Georgia Tech, Rogers majored in civil engineering and was a four-year starter. He needs 20 hours to graduate and plans to finish soon. But now his mind is on one thing, breaking into the NFL.

"It was brutal," Rogers said of combining academics and football. "It was like I barely saw daylight for three years except for practice."

Since the Ravens have a young, stable and deep group of linebackers, Rogers, 6 feet, 245 pounds, also finds himself playing for a special teams spot, rather than any significant time at linebacker. But he said that no matter what position he finds himself in, he will continue to play the game as he always has -- hard.

"I want to be the guy running down on special teams and going out and killing somebody, decapitating them. That's the way my dad taught me how to play."

And although he only has one day of training camp under his belt, Rogers still plans on not only finding his way onto the team, but also finding the respect of Ravens veterans when they report Friday.

"He is enthusiastic. He has good learning habits. We'll see how it goes," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "With this group of guys we're trying to give them lots of work so they'll be ready when the vets report and their reps go down."

Rogers understands his task.

"It's great to be in the NFL right now," he said. "But it is kind of scary. But I'll just continue to go out there and play hard. That's all you have to do for guys to respect you."

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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