CORTLAND, N.Y. - It's not easy to get lost in this college town of 19,000, but Eric Decker managed to do it on the way to his first practice as a Jet.
Decker, the team's free agent wide receiver/fashion model/reality show star, somehow got turned around driving the four blocks from the team's dorm to the practice field Thursday morning.
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"They gave us maps, so I just figured I'd hop in my car and figure it out," Decker said with a laugh. "I got lost. I didn't know where I was going and I drove into the town. I learned the hard way, but I found my way."
The good news for the Jets is that the 6-3, 214-pound Decker looked anything but lost during his first day of practice.
Decker, the Jets' big splurge in free agency, seems like the real deal, which is great news for a team that is short on dependable receiving options. Decker was targeted more than any other receiver Thursday, though there were no official stats. He was impressive from the moment he stepped on the field as he caught the first pass from Geno Smith in team drills.
Fans, of which Decker had plenty of in the stands, weren't the only ones who were impressed. Veteran quarterback Michael Vick, who has played with a number of talented receivers over the years, practically gushed about Decker's first-day performance.
"Decker runs great routes. I mean the top of his routes are unbelievable," Vick said. "He knows how to create space. You can just tell that working with Peyton Manning over the last couple of years has helped him blossom as a receiver. He's certainly been rewarded for that."
Decker, who caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with the Broncos, was rated the 12th-best receiver in the NFL by Pro Football Weekly.
Vick believes Decker's experience is exactly what second-year quarterback Geno Smith needs. "I'm glad he's on this team. He's going to help Geno a lot," Vick said. "He's going to help this offense get better week in and week out and do some good on this football team."
He has to, if the Jets have any hope of improving. Last season, the team's passing attack was ranked 31st in the NFL. The year before, it was 30th.
The lack of production can be blamed on both quarterback issues and a lack of targets. Though the Jets have yet to officially label Decker their top receiver, he doesn't have much competition.
Decker, who is married to country music star Jessie James, has the off-the-field pedigree to become one of the biggest stars to play for the Jets should he have a couple of big years here. And despite getting lost in a small town like Cortland, Decker said he can't wait to embrace a giant one like New York and their football fans.
"What New York brings to the table, it's a lot of culture and a lot of passion," Decker said. "I understand that the fans are excited about this season. We have a job to do to perform on the field and give them our best . . . This is one of the best cities, if not the best city in our country. I am looking forward to having these opportunities."
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