Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey has stood across from wide receiver Eric Decker in practice for the entirety of the young wide out’s career. As Decker enters his third training camp, Bailey sees “a different person” wearing the same No. 87.
“He’s grown so much,” Bailey said. “He wants to learn. He wants to be the best. I love that about him. The guy is making tremendous strides and I expect him to get better and better every week.”
Decker made a huge stride from his rookie campaign to his second year. In 2010 he made six catches in 14 games. Last year, he jumped to a team-leading 44 receptions and eight touchdown grabs in an offense that set a team record in single-season rushing yards.
This year, with quarterback Peyton Manning under center, the offense will look much different. So will Decker.
In the offseason, Decker worked out with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald at his offseason training camp in Minnesota. He said Fitzgerald helped him understand exactly what it takes to be an elite receiver in the NFL.
“Getting the work in the offseason with a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, it helped me compete and understand what it takes to be good at this level – or with a guy like Larry, what it takes to be great,” Decker said. “But also what kind of work ethic you need to have to stay in this game. “
He’s also absorbing some football knowledge from the Broncos’ most polished leaders.
“You’ve got to focus on nutrition,” Decker said. “You’ve got to take care of yourself physically. You’ve got to get in the playbook and study all of the teams. Those little things add up because young guys and young players kind of neglect it, but you find out that’s important. A kind of guy like Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning, you learn how they study and how they go about their business. You take as much from them and try to build on your own game.”
A productive offseason, an 11-time Pro Bowler as his quarterback, and great health – the pieces seem to be in place for a prolific 2012 campaign out of Eric Decker.
“My health is great. I think I feel comfortable with this organization, the city, what I’m trying to accomplish,” Decker said. “A guy like Peyton Manning at quarterback… You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities.”