(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.)By PAT GRAHAMAP Sports Writer
Eric Decker intends to play another starring role in the Denver Broncos’ hurry-up offense this season.
As for stealing the spotlight in an upcoming reality TV series with his wife, country singer Jessie James, well, that’s her stage. He’ll just stick to what he does best – catching passes from Peyton Manning.
Decker is coming off a season in which he caught 85 passes for 1,064 yards and 13 TDs. Those numbers figure to go down, with the addition of Wes Welker and the emergence of Demaryius Thomas.
Not that Decker is too concerned, even if he’s in the last season of his contract. With Manning running the show, there will be plenty of passes to go around for this version of the Broncos’ ”Three Amigos.”
”It doesn’t come down to a numbers game for us,” Decker said. ”That Super Bowl ring is the prize at the end.”
And that would certainly go well with the one he put on this summer when he married James. Asked if his first camp as a newlywed was any different, Decker just grinned.
”The same,” he said.
This offense certainly won’t be the same. For as fast as Manning & Co. moved last season, they want to speed things up even more. Decker has listened to Manning yell ”hurry, hurry” at the line of scrimmage so much in practice, he actually hears the command in his sleep.
”That’s a good thing,” said Decker, a fourth-year receiver out of Minnesota. ”Having 18 (Manning) on your team makes you that much better of a football team. In the locker room as well, he is the best leader I’ve been around. So, I love that I get to grow as a young NFL player and get to learn from one of the best.”
Decker is coming off quite a season, with really nothing tripping him up. Well, besides the turf when he was on his way to a sure TD at San Diego only to fall to the ground with no one near him.
Other than that, it was a breakout year for him as he emerged as one of the top wideouts in the league, finishing second in receiving TDs behind Green Bay’s James Jones (14).
Now, with Welker coming on board in the offseason, Decker is a member of one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the NFL. But that’s chatter he quickly dismisses.
”People put names and marks and things on us, but again, our job is to be the best group offensively as a whole,” Decker said. ”I think in the receiver room we do have confidence in our ability and our game and we want to be considered as that. That’s not something that you just get named, you have to earn that during the season and that is what we are trying to do this year.”
In the process, maybe a new deal, too. Decker isn’t too worried about operating under the final season of his rookie contract.
”In this sport, you kind of have that expectation that nothing is given to you,” Decker said. ”There’s really no security, you’ve got to earn a job every day. For me, it fuels my fire to play hard and work harder and to have that as something to work toward. Obviously, my goal is to win a championship for the team. That’s just another fuel to the fire.”
Even though he’s already a star in the world of Broncos fans, Decker played more of a supporting role with the cameras rolling at home. The new reality show will air about the time football gets into full swing.
”That was definitely a new and different experience,” Decker said of filming. ”She’s really the main character. She’s hilarious and real. My expressions are on the show, just laughing at her and watching her be funny. It’s a good dynamic and it’s fun.”
He’s already bracing for the ribbing he will take from teammates.
”I can already imagine (the show) being up in the team room, having some jokes being passed around,” Decker said.
All in good fun, of course. These receivers are starting to develop quite some chemistry on the field, making it difficult on friendly DBs, let alone rival players.
”We have our hands full,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. ”But we like that challenge because we are not going to see this kind of package come at us.”
No, they’re really not, especially when this trio gets on the same page with Manning. They could be the next installment of the ”Three Amigos,” a moniker once given to the Broncos trio of Ricky Nattiel, Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson.
”Basically, we’re just trying to go out and work hard, push each other, and try to get each other open depending on what coverage,” Thomas explained. ”It’s going great.”
Decker couldn’t agree more.
”We put the pressure on ourselves. We know expectations are set high outside of this building, but they are also set high here,” Decker said. ”What we have to do to maximize our opportunities and the talent that we have is to play our best football from Day One.”
Notes: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was carted off the field Wednesday after hurting his left ankle in a drill. When asked his level of concern, coach John Fox said, ”Not overly. But anytime they miss time, I’m concerned.” … OL Justin Boren (big toe) was taken off the field. … Rookie RB Montee Ball was kicking himself for missing a block in a passing drill Wednesday. ”Blocking is very important, especially since we all know who is back there,” Ball said, referring to Manning.