Taylor Decker wasn’t interested in talking in any detail about the shoulder injury he sustained in the Detroit Lions’ offseason workouts last year.
A few words would suffice – and it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to dwell on something that had such a negative impact on his young career.
From entrenched starter at left tackle – the critical position on the offensive line – to hospital patient with a long rehabilitation project was not a sequence of events that he’d want to review at length.
View photos from Day 2 of Detroit Lions minicamp practice.
The injury that required surgery on his right shoulder caused Decker to miss all of training camp and the first half of the regular season. The impact was devastating to him, and to the offensive line, which continued to crumble under a blitz of injuries throughout the season.
“I’m just trying to put that behind me at this point,” he said after a minicamp practice earlier this week. “It was an unfortunate situation.”
Discussing the spread of the colorful tattoos that now extend from both shoulders to his wrists, is another matter.
Has he added any ink since last season?
Decker laughed when the question was posed lightheartedly.
“A little bit,” he said. “I finished up the forearm. Hopefully, while I’m trying to get better out here, my tattoos look cool.”
How about adding some advertising?
“I’m not so worried about that right now,” Decker said, laughing again. “But probably so.”
For Decker, there was no joking – and no talking with the media, period – a year ago at this time.
Before the injury, Decker was preparing to build on a promising rookie season that more than validated general manager Bob Quinn’s decision to draft him 16th overall in the first round in 2016. Decker started all 16 games. Only 11 rookies, just four of them being offensive linemen, did that.
Decker’s performance and durability gave every indication that the Lions had a foundation player on the offensive line.
Decker was Quinn’s first draft pick as GM, and the choice showed how building the offensive line was a priority. Two more offensive linemen were drafted in 2016 – interior linemen Graham Glasgow (third round) and Joe Dahl (fifth).
Quinn turned to free agency last year to add two veteran starters – right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner.
And this year’s draft added two more linemen – Frank Ragnow (first round), and Tyrell Crosby (fifth).
On paper, the offensive line should have more talent and depth than at any time in recent seasons.
However, what happened last year was an example of how injuries can decimate a position group. Among the starters, only Glasgow got through the season unscathed. He started all 16 games, and played every snap at either left guard or center.
There was turnover at the other four positions, both for starters and because of injuries that required in-game substitutions.
With a full year behind him in his recovery from the shoulder injury, Decker can feel good about a fresh and healthy start to his third season. He’s been able to participate fully in learning new blocking schemes under offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and his assistant, Hank Fraley.
“It’s nice to be out here trying to get better every day – playing football, doing what I want to do,” Decker said.
“I’m not the put-the-system-together guy. I’m just running the plays that are called – trying to get better every time I step out here.
“It sounds probably cliché and obvious, but football is football to me. You block people – pass blocking, run blocking – and try to get better any chance you get.
“I want to run whatever play is called and do a good job at that.”