FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Eric Decker said his absence last week was about family, not Fitz.
“I enjoyed some family time,” Decker said Wednesday when asked about his no-show during three days of Jets OTAs last week. “It’s funny ’cause you go away and assumptions are made, certain quotes are made, but Coach knew where I was. I informed him the week before that I was going with my wife.”
Speculation swirled last week that Decker and fellow receiver Brandon Marshall skipped the practices because they are frustrated over the stalled negotiations between the Jets and free- agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Although a source told Newsday last week that Marshall’s absence was unrelated to the Fitzpatrick saga, The New York Post reported Decker stayed away to “send a message” to general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Decker said he wasn’t making a statement.
“That’s not the reason why I wasn’t here,” said Decker, who has two small children with his country-singer wife Jessie James Decker. “Everyone’s got to write a story. There’s assumptions made, sources, whatever. I can’t control that. Now I’m here.”
Decker told Newsday that Geno Smith, the presumptive starter if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, knew he’d be absent last week. Decker also explained why he didn’t push back against the storyline before Wednesday.
“It’s a slippery slope,” he said at his locker. “If I say I’m on vacation, people are like, ‘What are you doing on vacation? You should be working.’ At the same point, because it is voluntary and I informed my team and my coaches where I was, that’s the true value. Because they’re the ones that coach me, (the people) upstairs, they’re the ones that pay me, those are my bosses. So to answer to anyone else — I don’t need to explain to anyone else.”
Marshall, however, danced around the topic of whether his no-show was related to Fitzpatrick’s situation. He said he was in Florida last week working out at his gym, but when pressed for a “yes” or “no” answer, he said: “You guys know how I feel about Ryan, I’ve said it over and over again all offseason.
“There’s a thin line between supporting your teammate and also being detrimental to the team. But you guys know how I feel about Ryan. At this point, it’s time for all of us to move forward and try to win some games.”
Peppered by more questions about his reasons for missing practice, Marshall said: “There’s a big story now about ‘Where’s Brandon?’ It’s just part of the process of being able to get myself in a place where I’m there in December and January. That’s what it’s about. That’s championship football. That’s what I want to play, is championship football, and you’ve got to be there mentally.”
In March, the Jets presented Fitzpatrick with a three-year, $24-million deal, which could be worth $36 million with incentives. But he has not accepted the offer, which would pay $12 million in 2016 and $15 million total guaranteed.
Although both receivers made it clear they support Smith fully, it’s clear they still want Fitzpatrick under center. “I love Fitz and I hope that he is back,” Decker said. “I can’t say if one guy is going to make the difference or not, but I think he’s a factor in the success in the passing game for sure.”
However, he doesn’t believe players’ opinions carry much weight in the Fitzpatrick negotiations.
“I don’t think that, ultimately, a couple guys can change the destiny of a team or control the power upstairs,” Decker said. “They’ve got a plan and they’re sticking to their plan and they’re going to do what’s best for this team — not only this year but into the future.”