Despite being labeled as a veteran leader among the receivers by fellow wideout Brandon Stokley, in some ways Eric Decker and this year’s rookie class have a lot in common this offseason.
Like this year’s rookies, Decker is going through his first typical NFL offseason.
After he was drafted in 2010, Decker spent his offseason recovering from a foot injury and wasn’t able to participate in OTAs. Last season, there were no OTAs due to the lockout.
Now, Decker is enjoying being out on the field with his teammates working to build on his breakout 2011 campaign.
“Personally it’s been great,” Decker said. “Just the fact of having time to work your craft, to get in the weight room and focus on certain things that make you more explosive that can help you on the football field. Also just being able to catch balls every day, run routes, go against the defense, work on your releases and work on the top of your cuts. It just makes it so much easier when training camp rolls around in August.”
Along with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who is also entering his third NFL season in 2012, Decker will be viewed as a veteran leader for the receiving corps.
That means it is up to him and Thomas to set the tone for the group as the team assembles for the first time during the offseason for OTAs.
“Right now expectations for us are just to utilize this time to work on our craft, to get better,” Decker said. “We know that if we take advantage of every opportunity that we get, we’ll set ourselves up for a successful training camp. I think we’re going to set our goals high and our expectations are going to be high for ourselves.”
Decker suffered a knee injury during Denver’s Wild Card victory over Pittsburgh in January and as soon as he got back to full strength, which he estimated came in early February, he began working towards the 2012 season.
“I was happy with how my body kind of responded,” he said. “The training staff here did a great job of getting me back. So far no setbacks, no pain.”
Since the Broncos signed free agent quarterback Peyton Manning, Decker has been running routes and catching passes from the four-time NFL MVP trying to build chemistry.
Just as helpful as his time spent catching passes from a future Hall of Famer in Manning has been running routes against another future Hall of Famer in cornerback Champ Bailey.
“Working with Peyton Manning is a dream come true in my mind and going against Champ Bailey is frustrating at times, but it’s what you want,” Decker smiled. “He’s a guy that is going to make you better as far as every piece of what we do as a wide receive. I respect Champ so much. He does help as a younger (receiving) corps, ‘Try this on your release, try this on the top of your route.’ He’s been great to have on our team.”
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