Decker makes up for season’s worth of frustrations
Before his out-of-the-blue four-touchdown breakout at Kansas
City last weekend, the only starring role Eric Decker enjoyed this
year was in his reality TV show about his wedding to country and
pop singer Jessie James.
”Eric & Jessie: Game On” was filled with tantalizing shots
of the beautiful couple.
In between the pillow talk and steamy hot tub scenes, Decker was
shown fretting over his future with the Denver Broncos last summer
as he approached the final year of the contract he signed as a
rookie four years ago.
By the time the show debuted in September, Decker had a gold
ring on his finger but no extension in hand.
On Wednesday, he insisted his mind this season hasn’t been on
his bank account but on the business of football.
”Yeah, it’s natural before the season to want security, to want
to know what your future’s going to be, but once the season comes
around, it’s something that you just have to forget about because
that will just take care of itself,” Decker said. ”In the end, my
focus was leaning toward becoming a better football player,
becoming a better teammate, and hopefully with all that hard work,
with all that determination, it pays off in the long run.
”It’s something that obviously is present, it’s there, but it’s
nothing that is flustering me or is on my mind a lot.”
What did have him flummoxed this season, he admits, was a balky
shoulder and constant press coverage.
After ranking second in the league with 13 TD catches last
season, Decker had just three touchdown grabs through the first 11
games this year – and none in November – while Demaryius Thomas,
Wes Welker and Julius Thomas were regularly spiking the ball in the
Decker had just nine catches last month and he got absolutely no
love from the officials who turned a deaf ear to his complaints
that he was getting mugged by cornerbacks intent on slowing down
Denver’s turbo-charged offense.
Against New England two weeks ago, Decker caught just one of
five passes thrown his way, for 5 yards.
Teammates and coaches said Decker kept his head down and his
chin up, however, as evidenced by the way he kept drawing accolades
for his key blocks that kept springing teammates for big gains.
”Yeah, it’s not fun” getting shut down, Decker said. ”But
again that’s sometimes how the game goes.”
Decker set a franchise record Sunday with a four-touchdown
flourish at Kansas City as the Broncos (10-2) took control of the
AFC West and stayed in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the
The slump-busting performance, which earned him his first career
AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor, did wonders for his image
and his morale – and maybe even his future financial worth.
”It’s funny how people start rolling around. One day they hate
you, the other day, they love you,” Decker said. ”But a lot of
love’s been given out. And it’s been fun to talk, I guess, about it
and relive it, but now it’s on to next week. It’s in the past. It’s
Decker’s dominant day – he set up Denver’s fifth TD with a
42-yard catch to the Chiefs 3 – was the kind of performance that
can erase a season’s worth of frustrations and give a guy a big
confidence boost for the stretch run.
”I certainly hope so,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. ”Eric
had an outstanding year last year, and he’s definitely a huge part
of our offense. You know sometimes these wide receivers, you kind
of never know when it’s going to be your day, and I know probably a
couple games where Eric may have been frustrated he maybe wasn’t
scoring as many touchdowns as he had (last season or) as some of
the other guys (have this season). Then, all of a sudden you catch
four in one game. So it’s a credit to him for he was focused and
kept working hard in practice.”
Notes: ”Felt great,” coach John Fox said following his first
practice since returning to work four weeks after open-heart
surgery. … DE Derek Wolfe missed practice Wednesday as doctors
continued trying to figure out why he suffered seizure-like
symptoms Friday on the team’s bus ride to the airport. … Manning
sat out practice, which was held indoors because of snow and cold.
The forecast for Sunday calls for 15-degree weather and more snow.
”I’m weatherproof,” said LB Von Miller. Manning said pretty much
the same thing, insisting he’s not a different player in wintry
weather despite statistics that show otherwise: ”That’s not how I
feel,” he said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on