Minnesota's Decker switches focus back to football

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Admit it. You want to be Eric Decker. Who doesn't?

He's one of the best wide receivers in college football, and he has been selected in each of the last two Major League Baseball drafts, most recently by his hometown Minnesota Twins in the 27th round last month. Decker is putting baseball on hold to see things through on the gridiron, and he'll serve as a co-captain this fall as Minnesota opens TCF Bank Stadium. A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award last season, Decker will become Minnesota's all-time receptions leader this fall and set several other marks before pursuing an NFL career.

Decker took some time this week to discuss his future and the outlook for Minnesota in 2009.

Have you been able to switch your focus back to football pretty easily after playing baseball this spring?

Eric Decker: Yeah, it wasn't too bad of a transition. In the middle of June, I got back to doing football workouts, got back on the field and tried to get myself in shape for football. There's definitely a difference mentally and physically, just getting my strength back and being able to get my feet under me, where running routes and running long distances isn't hard anymore. That's a big thing because baseball, you're not running for two and a half hours at a time. It's more short-lived. In football, you're going and going and going and going.

Did your interest in playing football this fall ever waver after the draft?

ED: It was always clear that my intentions were to come back. It's a great opportunity to open up the new stadium, play my senior season and represent Minnesota. I'm very excited for the season. We have a lot of guys back and more depth. I'm really confident in what we can do.

There's a lot of excitement about the stadium. What's it like among the players since you'll be the first to play there?

ED: Just the excitement level and your preparation, you work so much harder because you know you have an opportunity to play at a new stadium in front of a big crowd and really cherish it. We got a chance to walk around and be in it. I think we're going to do a few summer workouts at the end of the month here inside and get a feel for it and really get adapted to the playing field and the atmosphere. It will be a special time. Our focus will always be on Syracuse [Week 1] during the summer, but to open the new stadium will be a special moment for everybody.

With a new offense being installed this spring, how much have you talked with coach [Jedd] Fisch and the other guys about the changes? Where is your confidence level in terms of being able to adapt?

ED: I have the playbook and I've been studying every day, trying to understand the language and the concepts of what coach Fisch is trying to do. He's a great coach and he understands the game well. Being on the field with Adam [Weber] and the rest of my teammates, it's a good learning tool to walk through all the plays. It's just muscle memory, being able to run through everything we do.

Are there many changes to your specific responsibilities in the new offense versus the spread?

ED: There are definitely different concepts. We're trying to attack the defense in different ways. We're able to move a lot of guys around and try a lot of different things. The big thing, too, is we're trying to get the running game back, which will balance out the passing game and really help us offensively.

Will the offense allow you to go downfield a little more? You've always had a ton of receptions as a possession-type guy, but will you have more flexibility?

ED: I think so. Whenever you have an effective running game, it always gives you the opportunity for the long ball. That's one of our stresses this year, to run the ball well and open things up down the field, which hopefully will be the case.

I know you have a close relationship with Adam. How has it been working with MarQueis Gray, who will be a big part of the offense this fall?

ED: MarQueis is one of the best athletes on the team, and we're going to try to use him in any way we can just to get all the ability out of him. You see a little different things than Adam. Adam's arm strength is a lot better. MarQueis can throw it farther, but he's still got some development to go through. This season, being under Adam, is the best way to give him a lot of lessons. Adam will coach him up to be in the spot where he's at right now.

Have you set a timetable on when you have to decide between football and baseball? Is it next spring, or after the season?

ED: My thinking process is football is my focal point, and that's the one thing I'm going to be focused on. At the next level, I'd love to play football and have that chance. And that's what I'm going to go for. If that doesn't work out, I always have baseball there. My thinking process is just football all the way.

Have you talked to the Twins about that? Are they aware of your intentions?

ED: Yeah, they understand where I'm at. I've talked to a lot of people about that, and they're supportive of it. Obviously, they'd like to see me give baseball more of an opportunity, but this is just a choice I made for myself. What it comes down to is how do you feel inside and what do you really want to pursue as a career.