DETROIT - In a surprising development, Scout.com's Mike Fowler learned Sunday
that the Detroit Lions have taken steps to try to reclaim as much as $10 million
of wide receiver Charles Rogers $14 million signing bonus.
Drafted second overall in the 2003 NFL draft, Rogers signed a six-year, $40 million contract with incentives that could push the deal as high as $54.6 million.
The Lions would not comment on the move and Rogers' agent Kevin Poston did not immediately return calls for comment on the administrative move by the team.
The situation came to light following the team's 20-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, where Rogers collected four receptions.
It is unclear whether Detroit has discontinued making installment payments of Rogers signing bonus or whether the bonus has already been paid and the team is seeking repayment of the funds.
No matter what the situation, one thing is assured, Poston in concert with the NFL Players Association will fight tooth and nail to keep the Lions from recouping anything. If the Lions have withheld payments to Rogers, Poston will likely file grievances on Rogers behalf through the Union in an attempt to rebuff the Lions actions.
The Saginaw, MI native missed just four games this year due to violating the NFL's substance abuse suspension and Rogers likely has clauses in his contract that would allow them to recoup the signing bonus if he violates specific provisions of the deal.
It isn't as if Detroit didn't know that their could be problems with Rogers prior to drafting him. Prior to the draft, Rogers, along with Pitt corner Torrie Cox were flagged by the league for giving diluted urine samples. At the time, Poston said Rogers' flag was a mistake.
"He had to go to the bathroom for them at 5:30 in the morning and with people standing all around him," said Poston. "He couldn't go, so they gave him a lot of water and 30 minutes later, he did."
Subsequently, however, it was learned that Rogers' sample revealed the presence of a masking agent which put Rogers into the evaluation stage of the league's Substance Abuse program.
Poston again denied any problem on the part of his client. "The masking agent was simply excessive water," Poston said at the time.
However, there was no denying when Rogers was suspended for four games by the league.
The move meant that Rogers had at least one positive test for a banned substance likely while in Stage 1 of the league's policy. All players in the policy are moved to Stage 2, the drug testing phase of the policy.
A positive test while in Stage 1 results in a four game suspension and a four-game check fine. It also means Rogers is currently in Stage 3 of the league's policy, the Drug Testing and/or Banishment phase. Another positive test would mean banishment from the NFL for at least one year.
NFC North division rival Minnesota saw one of their players, Onterrio Smith, ironically a teammate of Lions quarterback Joey Harrington's at the University of Oregon, suspended for the entire 2005 season.
The move is curious on a lot of fronts and raises plenty of unanswered questions. When did Rogers find out that the Lions were going to attempt to recoup his bonus? Did he find out his first week back from suspension and did that lead to his "lack of effort" in his first week back from suspension? Is Detroit's unhappiness with Rogers the reason he seemed to have been phased out of the Lions offense until the fourth quarter of the loss to the Cowboys?
Lions' wide receiver Roy Williams said when he began being double teamed by
the Cowboys secondary he would have moved Rogers to the "Z" position and moved
himself to the "X" in an attempt to get Rogers off against single coverage. The
Lions apparently never considered the move.
Since the timing is so curious the question arises is a a one-year suspension pending?
One thing is certain, this isn't going to help the relationship between the Lions organization and Rogers. This could be the first step towards a mutual separation of the two parties.