June 2, 2024   5 MIN READ

Anticipated Return

CB Rodgers Making Up For Lost Time


PHILADELPHIA – Isaiah Rodgers read the quick slant the whole way. So well, in fact, that the veteran cornerback beat A.J. Brown, the intended receiver, to the landmark.

So when quarterback Jalen Hurts rifled the quick-hitter in the direction of his primary target late in Thursdays OTA session, it was Rodgers who broke on the ball and secured the interception, returning it the opposite direction for a would-be touchdown.

“It feels good,” Rodgers said of the play after practice. “It’s a blessing to be back, man. It feels real good.”

The return Rodgers alluded to centered on his season-long suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy.

Then a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Rodgers learned of his suspension when it was handed down on June 23, 2023. The club subsequently waived Rodgers, his immediate future uncertain as a result.

The Eagles were the only team willing to take a flyer on the talented, albeit tainted, defensive back, signing Rodgers on Aug. 28 and placing him on the Reserve/Suspended list. He was officially reinstated last month, on April 23.

“They just called,” Rodgers said. “They jumped the gun, I jumped the gun. This is definitely somewhere I wanted to be.”

Isaiah Rodgers

GETTY IMAGES: New Eagles CB Isaiah Rodgers, the former Colt, has looked impressive in OTAs with his new team.

But the time away from football was longer for Rodgers than the typical year-long pause his suspension dictated due a late-season knee injury that had prematurely ended his 2022 season.

If you’re counting, that meant that Rodgers’ absence from football had eclipsed 500 days.

That kind of extended lull from one’s vocation typically brings cognizance and perspective, both of which weren’t lost on Rodgers.

“It brought me closer to my loved ones,” he said. “It brought me closer to the game. It made me actually not take this game for granted and just understand that the league doesn’t need anybody.”

In Rodgers’ case, it wasn’t the thrill of game day, the pursuit of victory, or team travel he most missed last season. It was one tangible, sacred aspect in particular that couldn’t be replicated during his time in isolation.

“I’d say just being away from a locker room,” Rodgers said. “That brotherhood feeling, and just understanding that I made a mistake and I did my time.

“And just being back around a great team and a great culture of guys and just finally getting that locker room environment back into my heart, it feels real good.”

Training for his comeback under the blazing South Florida sun in Tampa, Rodgers opted not to reconfigure his schedule, maintaining a strategically structured routine that closely mirrored the one he’d grown accustomed to as a player.

Sundays were treated like game days, which for Rodgers included a healthy dose of cardio. And in keeping with the patterns of a typical NFL work week, Tuesdays remained his off days.

It was an unconventional approach that would eventually yield results, gradually transforming the scrappy, twitched-up cornerback into superior form.

For perspective, Rodgers, who clocked a blistering 4.28 40-yard dash at his virtual pro day back in 2020, actually believes he’s a faster player at this stage of his career.

He also noted that building up his speed, improving his hands and making plays on the ball were points of emphasis during training.

That the Eagles went against the grain and took a chance on Rodgers in light of the suspension wasn’t lost on the 26-year-old, who added how his bleak circumstances were eased knowing he’d eventually have a new NFL home waiting for him upon reinstatement.

“I think just knowing that a team actually were willing to sacrifice,” he said, “just holding me out and just trusting and believing that I’ll continue to work during the offseason, knowing I’ll come back and be a better player.”

While early in the evaluation process, Rodgers, who exclusively garnered reps with the first-team during OTAs, has dazzled.

The actions have followed the words, as the 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback doesn’t appear to be taking his newfound opportunity for granted.

Almost as if paying back for the belief and confidence the Eagles have shown in him, Rodgers seemingly approaches each rep with a chip on his shoulder, intent on conjuring a big play.

The footwork, short-area quickness and instinctiveness have been apparent, complementing a distinct swagger that qualifies as a prerequisite for the position.

Based on two May practices, Rodgers has done his part to stand out among a crowded field, which also includes rookies Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean and second-year holdovers Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks.

Veteran Darius Slay is the team’s undisputed top cornerback.

The competition will ratchet up in late July, which is expected to be further amplified due to the group’s versatility and its large number of young, developmental candidates looking to make the 53.

In the spirit of iron sharpening iron, Rodgers has already left his imprint, obliging in sharing his tricks of the trade.

“A lot of great talent, great guys,” Rodgers said. “A lot of guys who can play inside and outside. A lot of guys that’s willing to learn, including the rookies. They come in, ask questions – questions I never asked as a rookie.

“So, just knowing that they’re willing to learn – and learn from me – even with me sitting out a year, they still trust my knowledge and trust my game plan going into practice. So, I think that’s the one thing about this room … everyone is willing to learn.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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