Broncos-Vikings game means homecoming for Decker

Eric Decker is eager for his return to Minnesota, even if the

stadium he’ll be playing in doesn’t excite him.

Decker and the Denver Broncos play the Vikings in the final

preseason game Thursday at the Metrodome, where Decker played three

seasons in college and also a little baseball for the Gophers.

”It’s going to be fun to get back home, see family and

friends,” said Decker, a third-round draft pick by Denver who

hails from the Minnesota town of Cold Spring, northwest of the Twin

Cities.

He’s expecting a big turnout from his old community.

”It’s always fun to have that kind of support,” Decker said,

adding: ”I love those people there. They’ve been very good to

me.”

The Dome was good to him, too, even if it wasn’t his favorite

place to play. The Gophers called it home until moving into a new

open-air, on-campus stadium in 2009, Decker’s injury-shortened

senior season.

”The Metrodome, I could do without,” he said. ”But … I’ve

got three seasons in there. I’m very comfortable with the

surroundings, I guess, and how the field plays.”

Decker caught a touchdown pass in Sunday’s game and has six

receptions for 69 yards in the preseason. He’s still working his

way up the depth chart, particularly after missing most of the

offseason while recovering from foot surgery that ended his college

career and experiencing a setback during a scrimmage on Aug. 7.

”It’s a process. I’m on my way through the process. I’m taking

a step forward every time, trying to get better at the little

things: blocking well in the running game, running good routes,

lining up correctly, doing well on special teams,” Decker said.

”And I think every game I’m focused on certain things and I see

myself getting better at it, but I’m still not there yet.”

Gophers coach Tim Brewster beamed Tuesday when asked about

Decker’s career.

”Eric Decker is a guy that I know is going to be an outstanding

NFL player. Can you imagine how hard his heart’s going to be

beating playing against the Vikings? That’s good stuff,” said

Brewster, who then proudly pointed out four former Minnesota

players who will also appear in Thursday’s game.

Kicker Rhys Lloyd, wide receiver Logan Payne, cornerback Marcus

Sherels and linebacker Nate Triplett are on the Vikings roster,

trying to make their last impression before the final cuts are made

Saturday.

Another native Minnesotan on the Broncos, right tackle Ryan

Harris, is eager to come home too. He played at Cretin-Derham Hall

High School in St. Paul before going to Notre Dame.

Harris, drafted in the third round three years ago, is coming

off an injury. He hurt his toe midway through last season.

”Every time I go out on the field, I’m happy to be there,”

Harris said.

As a starter, his playing time will probably be limited

Thursday. He would love a lot more.

”Going back to the place where I watched football, I’ll take

every snap I can get,” Harris said.

He played at the Metrodome only a handful of times, but after

rooting for John Randle, Randy Moss and the rest as a child growing

up in the ’90s he’s excited – despite the expense of buying so many

tickets for family and friends.

”It’s going to be cool just to be back there and be back

home,” Harris said.

AP Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this

report.