After being limited to three games last season and undergoing two surgeries, it was natural to wonder if Eric Decker would be back close to full health before the Jets open training camp in late July. But Decker has returned for the team's offseason program and he hasn't been limited in any way.
"I'm back. I've been doing everything," he said. "The first phase was just the workout, so we were in the weight room and running. Now, we're on the field and I've been out there as a full participant. I feel great. It was a long four or five months, but to be where I am now and feel how I do, I'm excited."
A torn rotator cuff sent Decker to the injured reserve list on October 12, but a hip surgery was also deemed necessary during a full evaluation.
"It was frustrating, it was hard. I had the hip done and I was on crutches for two weeks. I took a week break and then had my shoulder done," he said. "I was in a sling for six weeks and that, along with two little kids chasing me around with one arm and crutches, it was difficult."
Decker, the proud father of Vivianne Rose (3) and Eric Thomas (2), had a number of long nights following the shoulder procedure.
"I didn't sleep for probably two months. I was rolling around, couldn't get comfortable and then the kids crying in the middle of the night didn't help," he said. "With the lack of sleep and the grind, I compared it to a foot surgery I had coming out of college. It's just pain that you deal with. Once I got to about five and a half months, it kind of went away."
Pain free now, Decker actually benefited from the injuries. He got to spend more time with his wife, Jesse-James, and his kids at a precious age. Little things like having breakfast together or playing on the playground set was something he valued and he also gained a greater appreciation for another love.
"Being away from football and going through that whole experience made me appreciate football more, how much I love the game and how much it means to me," he said. "Not being with the guys was hard and it's made my passion greater. It's made me hungrier coming back. I had a great rehab session in Nashville and continuing here. It's just nice to be healthy."
In 2015, Decker totaled 80 receptions for 1,027 yards with 12 touchdowns. His 10 scoring grabs inside the 20 had set a Jets' single-season record. The 6'3", 214-pounder remains an underrated athlete who is an excellent route-runner and he is a huge weapon inside the red zone. The 30-year-old says the new-look team is stressing on finishing this offseason.
"We have some younger guys and that young blood sparks us older guys. I was disappointed with the way last year finished, but it's a new year with a new attitude," he said. "We have this offseason and it's been great over the last month of working hard, finishing and doing the little things right. That's kind of our focus, the little details. It's different getting to know new people, but it brings a new energy."
All healed up, Decker is looking ahead. The recovery has gone smoothly and he has a summer guarantee.
"I was kind of thrown aback when people didn't think I was going to be ready for Week 1 or for training camp. Well, it's four months away and I'm full speed, running routes," he said. "I'm not worried about training camp, I'm worried about right now. I can guarantee you that I'll be out there every day in training camp participating."
Best Images of the Jets During Field and Weight Room Workouts During Phase Two of the Offseason Program