Veteran tackle Taylor Decker missed the first two months of the season while rehabbing a full spiral fracture in his finger that required five screws and a plate inserted in his hand. He said Monday some of the chatter surrounding his name during that time bothered him.
Things like ... why isn't Decker playing with a finger injury? Rookie Penei Sewell should never move back to the right side. Maybe the Lions should trade Decker.
"Frankly, I feel like the narrative of negativity surrounding my name all year pretty much has been bulls---," Decker said Monday, a day after making his 2021 season debut in Detroit's 16-16 tie in Pittsburgh. "I don't feel like it's been deserved. I do feel like people within the building, and do feel like a lot of fans, appreciate me and what I can do for this team. But you know the media pretty much all year has been pretty negative around me, so I'm not going to act like I like that."
Decker has been a solid left tackle in this league since the Lions took him No. 16 overall in 2016. He's coming off his best season as a professional in 2020, when he was graded a top 12 tackle by Pro Football Focus, and allowed just two sacks all season. He signed a multi-year extension last September.
Decker, 28, injured his finger in practice the week before the regular-season opener against San Francisco. Detroit moved Sewell, who the team drafted No. 7 overall this year with the intention of playing right tackle, to left tackle to fill the void. Matt Nelson started at right tackle.
Sewell played pretty well on the left side filling in for Decker, but the Lions were pretty consistent from Day 1 saying when Decker returned, he would be the left tackle and Sewell would be moved back to right tackle.
Decker said Monday the surgeon originally told him it would be three months before he regained strength and mobility in his hand. He tried to come back earlier than that late last month and suffered a setback to the UCL joint and knuckle that caused severe swelling and postponed his return.
Decker said it was tough to hear some of the trade talk and rumors while trying to rehab and return to the field.
"Having to sit down and have a conversation with my dad that it'll be ok if something like that (being traded) were to happen, even though it's not going to. My friends calling me worried," Decker said. "People in my neighborhood that I see outside when I'm walking my dog. To just have to deal with all that, when as far as I understand there was zero possibility of me not being a Detroit Lion this year, it's just really frustrating."
Decker isn't naïve to the fact that he's in a high-performance business. He knows he's compensated very well for his job, and with that comes scrutiny, but he felt like he was trying to be run out of town before playing a snap this season.
"Over the past few years I'd say that I've played at a pretty high level," he said. "So, I was just like, 'Where is this coming from?' I think the narrative should be that our o-line could be really, really good. It's just frustrating. I shouldn't have to talk to my parents about whether the team and the city that has become my home is going to trade me or get rid of me."
Decker said the hardest part about the last two months it is that he really wants to be here and wants to be a part of turning this organization into a winning one. The Lions have always viewed Decker as part of their future plans, as evidenced by his contract extension last season.
Decker thought his debut Sunday was solid and something to build on. He said he loves Sewell and the guys in the o-line room, and thinks they can be a really good group upfront for a long time.