Five months ago, WR Eric Decker roamed the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center halls as a guest while he and his Denver Broncos teammates prepared to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Today, things are different.
"Just to see the leaves on the trees, it's a lot nicer than the cold winter days," Decker said. But the greenery is perhaps the least significant change between late January and May.
First and foremost, Decker's no longer a temporary resident of our Florham Park, NJ, facility. After moving on from last season's AFC champions to join the Green & White in free agency, this building is now his home.
"This is the best facility I've been to, probably one of the nicest in the NFL," Decker said. "They treat their players and coaches first-class here. Woody Johnson does an amazing job. He provides a lot of stuff for his guys to be confident, to get on the field and play at a high performance. It's our job now to do that."
And to do that, Decker will have to prove that he's capable of excelling without a future first-ballot Hall of Famer throwing him the ball. Decker posted tremendous numbers over the past two seasons, tied for second among wideouts with 24 touchdowns, but as head coach Rex Ryan pointed out, "Obviously the numbers are skewed a little bit, yeah — Peyton Manning."
Decker's not just a product of Manning's machine-like perfection, though. He hauled in eight TDs as a second-year receiver with a familiar name in recent Jets history delivering the football in Tim Tebow. "That's pretty impressive," Ryan said.
Manning may be gone, but his invaluable lessons will not soon be forgotten by Eric Decker.
"Something I took away from him was that everything had a purpose," he said. "We're on the field, it has a purpose. Hopefully I've been able to help out a little bit as far as that attitude, that mentality of just going about your work and just doing your job at the highest level."
If Decker stays healthy and plays to his capabilities, he'll be every bit of the offensive star that the Jets have been looking for over the past few seasons. Neither coach nor player seems too concerned about the "No. 1 receiver" label, though.
"Clearly he's going to be a go-to guy," Rex said. "This is a guy, you can get him the ball in critical situations, get him the ball in the red zone. The quote-unquote No. 1 receiver? Hey, we're going to throw it to the open guy. I'm glad he's on our football team, that's all I can say." "I don't see it as I'm No. 1, he's No. 2, he's No. 3." Decker said. "All of us have to be on the field to make plays. It takes all 11 guys to have a successful offense. I came here knowing I could help out in different facets, whether it's on the field or off the field. I'm just excited about this opportunity."