In his first public comments since disappearing from Tennessee's football team last week, receiver Da'Rick Rogers downplayed the controversy his absence created.
In fact, the rising junior didn't even see it as one at all.
"Oh man, no controversy," Rogers said after practice on Monday. "Just had some little things to handle off the field, got those handled and now we're looking forward to becoming a championship-contending team.”
Rogers declined to provide specifics about the situation, repeatedly using the terms “personal issues” and “off the field” while downplaying the entire situation during the roughly six minutes he was made available to assembled media.
Controversy or not, the issue lit up local sports talk radio shows and Internet message boards after Rogers left the Vols last week following an unspecified violation of team rules.
The Georgia native made reference to Georgia State on his Twitter account last week, and a Georgia State website reported that Rogers intended on transferring to the school before backing off that to eventually say that Georgia State would be the only school Rogers would consider should he decide to transfer.
“If I was a distraction, I really wasn't trying to be a distraction,” the first-team All-SEC performer said. “It was a situation that we got handled, and everything is good now. … No transfer for me, no consideration. Maybe I need to do a little better job with my tweets, letting everybody know what's really actually going on, so next time it won't be misinterpreted."
Rogers said he was sorry if his absence tested his team’s focus on football, and that he planned on apologizing to his teammates. He wouldn't say if any teammates came to him to address his behavior.
“There really wasn't much in the air to clear,” Rogers said. “The team, we've always been on the same page, just little things happen. I think we got those handled, so everything should be good from here on out.”
Rogers downplayed a reported incident with a strength and conditioning coach that might have played a part in last week's absence.
“No issues,” he said. “Maybe a few misunderstandings, but nothing too serious.”
Rogers also addressed some missed team meetings in December, saying he was focusing on academics at the time.
When asked if his stature as a top playmaker on Tennessee's team might have played a part in the extensive coverage of his absence, Rogers said, “You make plays, the camera is always going to be on you, so you take the good with the bad. Anything you do will be publicized, so it's just something you have to learn how to live with and learn how to handle as you get older.”
Coach Derek Dooley said Rogers had to complete certain criteria for his return, and Rogers was back at practice on Saturday after missing one practice last week.
“I think it's like every player. It takes time,” Dooley said. “Da'Rick is going to make another mistake, like I will and everybody else will. But I know deep down in the core of Da'Rick, he loves Tennessee. He always has. He wants to be here. He wants to help the team win. Learning how to do that, every player has to figure it out.”
On the field, Dooley complimented Rogers' effort in practice on Monday.
“He had a good day today,” Dooley said. “He's got a good attitude. Made some really good plays today for us in the red area.”
Rogers caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. He had six 100-yard receiving games and averaged 15.5 yards per catch.