FOXBORO -- It began with a push-off. Eric Decker's first rep in one-on-ones on Monday likely would've been flagged after he extended his arm in making contact with Patrick Chung to create some separation. Not the best start to his day.
He dropped the next pass flung his way. Then he dropped two more in a side-session with Tom Brady . . . with no defense anywhere in sight.
That led Decker to chuck a football and punch his helmet in frustration. Brady then approached him for a quick sympathetic fist-bump.
Decker is competing for a job at the moment. The 31-year-old's $75,000 in guarantees on his new contract with the Patriots indicate he's far from a sure thing to make the roster, and he knows every practice rep he gets matters.
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That pressure makes what Decker did over the course of the remainder of the practice relatively impressive. Instead of letting his day spiral into a waste of a couple of hours, he caught his next four catchable targets. One pass from Brady, a deep shot down the sideline with Jonathan Jones close in coverage, was one of the prettiest connections of the day.
"It's part of the game," Decker said when asked about his drops. "We're all human. We're gonna make mistakes. Don't let it become a habit. Don't let it happen over and over again."
"This game is about mental toughness. You gotta understand that you gotta bounce back and they're going to ask you to respond. It's not really what you do in that moment, it's how you react to it. I've played a lot of football, had a few drops in my days. Had many catches as well, so I know how to bounce back and get to it."
Decker wasn't the only one dropping passes Monday. There were 10 drops in all during the workout. Rob Gronkowski mishandled one from Brady. Paul Turner, James White and Will Tye dropped consecutive passes from Brian Hoyer. Devin Lucien dropped a pair and Chris Hogan let one fall as well.
For Decker's part, though he acknowledged the wet conditions in Foxboro, there was no way to explain away his own personal case of the drops.
"There's no excuses for it," he said. "It's something that obviously you gotta address. That's something you work through. In my mind, that's why God created practice, just to be able to get better. Flush that out.
"But again my job is to catch the football so I gotta do better in that field. That's why we work on the side so I can see how [Brady] throws, get into certain routes and get that rhythm so we can build that confidence."
Decker did say that he felt as though his understanding of the offense was moving in the right direction, even if there were occasional physical errors on the field.
"Feel more comfortable with the playbook," he said. "Things are slowing down mentally. That's one thing, just gotta be able to get on the field and execute and not think about things and just react. We're getting there. Every day is a learning experience."
Decker should continue to see plenty of reps if others at his position remain out. The receiver spot has thinned as Kenny Britt has yet to practice in full during camp. Cordarrelle Patterson did not practice Monday. And both Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel -- two pass-catchers out of the backfield -- remain unavailable.
More reps means more opportunities for Decker to learn. If he can build on the end of Monday's practice, and "flush" his rocky start to the week, he may have a chance to fill what at the moment looks like a glaring need on the Patriots roster.