Rookies in the NFL have it tough. It starts right when their college careers are over and the preparations for a three-month interview process begins immediately ahead of the NFL Draft. It takes up most of their offseason.
Then, after being drafted or signed, they're thrown into the mix with veteran players, all while their heads are spinning trying to learn a much more complicated game at this level.
As rookie seasons go, Taylor Decker survived the process better than most. He stepped onto the field in Allen Park as the Lions' starting left tackle and didn't look back.
He allowed just 4.5 sacks in 16 games, and ended up playing every snap for the Lions at left tackle.
Pro Football Focus graded Decker one of the Top 12 left tackles in football, the only rookie among that group. He was also named to the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team.
Not too bad.
So just imagine how much more comfortable Decker feels heading into his second season having a true offseason to prepare himself.
"It's nice to literally for the whole offseason focus on getting better as a football player," Decker told reporters Tuesday. "You don't have that long interview process.
"I think the emphasis for me, what I really wanted to focus on, was I didn't want to get out of shape. I didn't want to take two months off or anything like that. I had this momentum going at the end of the season so I just wanted to keep improving keep getting better, so that was big for me."
That's why Decker signed on to work with LeCharles Bentley, a former Pro Bowl center who runs an offensive linemen training facility in Chandler, Ariz., this offseason.
"In my humble opinion, which I'm only in my second year in this league, I don't feel like people always work enough on skill acquisition," Decker said. "Everybody lifts weights, everybody runs, but not everyone is doing drills in the offseason constantly.
"At the end of the day, you're not a weight lifter. You're not a sprinter. You're a football player. So, I think that was huge for me to be able every single day work on drills and do things that are applicable to me on the field."
Decker expects to hit the ground running this offseason after spending the last couple months working out in Arizona and going through his pass sets and run steps, training himself to better react on the field with the proper techniques.
"He's a future Pro Bowler," new o-line mate and veteran T.J. Lang told 97.1 WXYT when asked about Decker after signing in Detroit as a free agent. "I watched a lot of film on that guy. He's a stud."
Decker was flattered by his teammate's words, but doesn't want to get too ahead of himself just yet.
"I mean that's an awesome, awesome compliment to receive from a player like him because he's obviously one of the best at his position in this league," Decker said.
"I think everyone wants to strive to make Pro Bowls and stuff like that. I don't want to project too far ahead. I'm just worried about tomorrow, recovering. Thursday, we have to lift and run. If you just piece together good days then hopefully something good will come of it."