FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan knows what it's like to be the new guy. As an undrafted rookie in 2011, he made stops with the Niners and Giants before landing with the Dolphins and earning the nickname "7-Eleven" because he always seemed to be open.
The next phase of his career brought him to Buffalo as a practice-squadder and then as an active-roster player. And when he became a restricted free agent in 2015, he signed with the Patriots.
At 30 years old, entrenched as one of Tom Brady's most trusted options in the Patriots passing game, Hogan is no longer at a point in his career where it's a learn-the-playbook-or-see-yourself-out situation. But he remembers what that was like, and he's now taken on a mentorship kind of role for any of his teammates in the receiver room who may need him in that capacity.
For someone like Eric Decker, who just attended his first practice as a member of the Patriots on Saturday, having experienced players like Julian Edelman and Hogan around could be particularly beneficial.
"Well, I’ve been in that position before," Hogan said Saturday. "You know, been in different offenses and then come to a new place and you know there’s a lot of information that probably gets thrown at you at once so you just kind of have to dissect that. Whatever best ways that they do that or you know, for me it was just kind of segmenting it out. And just answering any questions that he has.
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"So for a guy like Eric that’s been in the league for a while now, I’m sure he has a process of learning how he learns and he’s going to go about doing that the way that he does it. Just kind of be a guy that he can come to for questions and you know, give him answers the best way I can."
Decker got a few minutes of one-on-one time with Tom Brady following one period of practice, but Hogan explained that if Decker looks like he needs a hand at some point, he'd be willing to lend one. Hogan knows that if it hadn't been for players like Fred Jackson in Buffalo or Brian Hartline and Davone Bess in Miami that he might've ended up lost in those systems.
"When you’re out there on the field and a day like today when we’re working kind of situationally and working on routes, stuff on the side, I think there’s a . . . You know you can tell that maybe if he’s not going to ask a question or he’s a little unsure on how to do things, try to be that guy in that room that’s going to – you know, 'This is how Tommy wants it done,' or, 'This is how we’ve been doing it in the past.' Because for someone who’s been on a couple different teams, they do it differently in different places so just kind of help him, show him the way of how we do it here."
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Decker has plenty of ground to make up since most others in the Patriots receiver room had all of the spring to pick up the offense. Hogan, Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kenny Britt (who hasn't yet practiced in full as he recovers from injury) all have a leg up on the former Broncos, Jets and Titans receiver in that regard.
Decker could be in competition with the likes of Malcolm Mitchell (rehabbing injury and unavailable for practice to this point), Riley McCarron, Paul Turner, Devin Lucien and rookie Braxton Berrios if the Patriots are willing to keep a fifth receiver on the active roster during the first four weeks of the regular season while Edelman is suspended. According to ESPN, Decker received $75,000 in guarantees on his deal with the Patriots, making the move to add the 31-year-old a low-risk proposition.