February 12, 2019

Not Done Yet

A candle-laden donut cake from the neighbourhood Yum-Yum franchise to awaken to, accompanied by a heartfelt happy birthday serenade from daughters Kylah, four months old, and big sister Kalea, four and a half years.

For dad Eric Rogers, that was pretty swell, eclipsing even the two-year contract extension John Hufnagel sent gift-wrapped to celebrate his turning 28.

“A gaming headset, couple more things in the works,” reported the acrobatic Stampeders’ pass-catcher of his B-day haul, on an uncharacteristically drizzly Tuesday morning in Glendora, Calif.

“Going to dinner tonight with the family, which’ll be good.”

Rogers officially returns for a fourth campaign at McMahon Stadium following his fightback last season from two years away to give the NFL a whirl with the San Francisco 49ers and having his four-down dreams cruelly dashed after blowing out a knee, necessitating surgical repair and an enforced layoff.

Despite more injury issues in his 2018 return, he finished with 36 catches for 499 yards and five touchdowns over nine regular-season appearances, then made half a dozen snares for 125 yards and three majors in the West final against Winnipeg.

In the second half of that game versus the Bombers, more frustration, suffering a meniscus tear in the knee.

Not to be put off – he’d come too far, worked too hard – Rogers valiantly gutted it out despite discomfort to catch more six more passes for 64 yards as the Stampeders, of course, trimmed the Ottawa Red Blacks 27-16 on Grey Cup Sunday up north at Commonwealth Stadium.

He admits now that initially following the Cup victory, owing to the ongoing re-sets and pain while facing the winter work needed to continue strengthening the knee, he did tinker with the idea of retirement.

“There was a little back and forth, but in my heart I knew I wanted to still play, at least a couple more years.

“You never want to be away from the game. You’ve got to consider health, but your career can only last so long.

“I did consider (testing free agency) but once I saw there was Stampeder interest, and they offered me a solid deal, it tipped me over. Pretty easy choice.

“I’m comfortable there. I know how everything operates. I know the system. And those things make a difference.”

The litany of obstacles both Rogers and the Stamps faced throughout 2019, in the end, only served to strength his conviction to re-up.

“This last one, I’d have to say, was my most rewarding year,” he acknowledged. “Just the grind of getting back to the point where I could play, for starters. Then the ups and downs, for me and us as a team.

“A weird season. So many emotions.

“Losing my mom (Carrie). Coming back to Calgary to play. The cool picture of me after my first touchdown (at BMO Field, finger-pointing to the heavens in tribute to his mom, only 53 when she passed).

“Seeing K.J. (Kamar Jorden) just dominate and then unfortunately going down with the injury. Seeing all our receivers – at least it seemed that way – also get hurt. Everything sticking with the program.

“Me being able to come back in the playoffs and contribute … Then we end up winning it.

“It was a great story. I was so proud of the guys. When you step back and look at it, really, really rewarding. For everybody.

“So I’d say the adversity, that’s what made it my most memorable season. Better than 2015 (when he topped the CFL charts with 87 catches for 1,448 yards and 10 scores).

“For sure.

“And I’m just happy to be coming back.”