FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Wide receiver Eric Decker has been with the New England Patriots for five days and two practices, but that has been long enough for him to draw a link between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the latter of whom he played with in Denver from 2012 to 2013.
“These guys have played a lot of football and they understand how to win, what the formula is,” Decker said Tuesday in his first comments to Patriots reporters since signing a one-year contract worth up to $2.1 million.
“Peyton is the same way. I took a lot of habits, how he came to work, how he took care of himself physically, the way he watched tape, the way he practiced, the extra work he put in. Those things translate over Sunday [on game day].
“I believe Tom is the same way, just being around the last few days. That’s something, as a receiver, a teammate, you love to see from that position because that’s who is going to carry you. You just kind of follow his lead and do what is best for the team.”
In his two practices with the Patriots, Decker – who is donning No. 81 because his 87 is taken by tight end Rob Gronkowski -- has spent time working with Brady on a side field.
“I didn’t really know him personally before. Great guy, though,” Decker said. “Trying to have conversations with all my teammates, trying to get to know everybody, but it’s important to a receiver and quarterback to understand each other, to build that trust. That’s something that, over time, you just have to keep working [at].”
The Patriots could be relying heavily on the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Decker, who coach Bill Belichick said appealed to the team as a “very experienced player” with “good size” and “good production in the league.”
The receiver spot has been one of the top stories of training camp, as Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games of the season, which leaves Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Decker as the most experienced receivers on the depth chart at practice. Kenny Britt could eventually emerge, but he is still not fully participating as he recovers from a hamstring injury, while youngsters Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner round out the depth chart.
For his part, Decker said “there is a period of acclimation” he must go through in New England, where he hoped there would be an opportunity for him as a free agent earlier this offseason. He said the biggest thing has been studying the playbook, which he’s pored himself into over the last few days.
Of his first impressions of the Patriots, he said, “They do it the right way. There’s no question why they consistently win, why they are consistently on top, just the way they work, every detail, everybody throughout the building does their job to the best, and it’s quite fascinating to be a part of it. I’m just trying to fit in.”
One aspect that has helped that process is reuniting with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was head coach in Denver when Decker was selected by the Broncos in the third round in 2010.
“Josh drafted me in Denver and gave me an opportunity. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for him, probably the smartest football coach I think I’ve had in my career. The guy knows his X’s and O’s,” Decker said. “It’s been fun being back with him.
“There’s obviously things that change over time, but there’s some carryover I was able to take and quickly learn. There’s a lot of new stuff too that I have to catch up on and get ready to go.”