Joined: March 31st, 2005, 11:43 am
Location: Grand Rapids
JOEY HARRINGTON START IN 2005?
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
ALLEN PARK -- There have been big changes in the environment around him since Joey Harrington and the Lions ended the 2004 season with a loss at Tennessee on Jan. 2.
None has made Harrington feel less secure about his position as the starting quarterback, or any less determined to win games this year.
"I don't think there's any question about how I fit in," Harrington said Tuesday. "I'm the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, and we've got to win games. That's how I fit in."
Jeff Garcia's signing gives the Lions their first legitimate experienced backup quarterback since Harrington's rookie season in 2002. Coach Steve Mariucci and Garcia emphasized that Garcia is coming in as a backup. But Garcia's having played under Mariucci for four years in San Francisco has created speculation that he is waiting in the wings if Harrington and the Lions start slowly.
Ted Tollner has replaced Sherm Lewis as offensive coordinator, and there is an expectation that Tollner will expand what has been a conservative offense. Tollner was an assistant coach for Garcia's last two seasons in San Francisco.
Then, late last week, the Lions got a visit from Utah's Alex Smith, one of the top-rated quarterbacks available in the April 23-24 draft.
Harrington won't look over his shoulder at Garcia, and he doesn't have any concern about the remote possibility of the Lions' drafting Smith.
"There's not an issue in my mind, other than we've got to win football games," Harrington said.
"Jeff coming in doesn't change anything. Alex Smith getting drafted doesn't change anything.
"We have to win football games. I'm doing everything I can right now to prepare myself and this team to do that."
Harrington's comments Tuesday were his first with the Detroit media since a postgame locker-room session after the loss to Tennessee. He has been in town for two weeks, taking part in the offseason conditioning program that began April 4.
Harrington is well aware of the scrutiny he and the Lions face this year. They were 6-10 last year and 5-11 in 2003, and Harrington has taken much of the criticism for the losing records.
But there have been unusual twists this year. A published report -- vigorously denied by Lions management -- in February claimed the Lions were considering releasing Harrington. He has a $3 million roster payment due in June, and his base salary for 2005 is $4.95 million.
Immediately after the story came out, Harrington said he got calls from owner William Clay Ford, president Matt Millen and Mariucci voicing their support of him.
"Mr. Ford and Matt and coach Mariucci called and said, 'That's completely ludicrous,' and, 'We haven't even considered that,' " Harrington said.
Harrington said he expected to have a proven backup. Mike McMahon was the Lions' backup quarterback the last two years but has signed with Philadelphia.
"I knew they were going to bring somebody in," Harrington said. "That wasn't a surprise to me. Jeff's experience and successes and knowledge of the offense provide a great safety net.
"That's how it was described to me. Our roles at this point have been clearly defined to me."
Harrington spoke briefly with Smith during the latter's visit but didn't put much stock in it, based on his experience before the 2002 draft.
"There are plenty of teams who brought me in the month prior to the draft who had no intention of drafting me," Harrington said. "That's part of the game."
Wide receiver Roy Williams has recovered from recent surgery on his left ankle and ran routes in an informal workout last week, Harrington said. Williams was hurt in the fourth game at Atlanta last season.
Former Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers, who was in for only three plays in the opening game before suffering a broken right collarbone for the second straight year, has put on about 15 pounds of muscle.
"He looks good," Harrington said. "I can tell he wants to be out there. I know he's going to do it."
The 2005 regular-season schedule will be released today. Opponents are determined based on last year's standing, but the dates had to be set.
Two more defensive players who rate as first-round draft picks visited Tuesday. They were linebacker Derrick Johnson of Texas and defensive end Shawne Merriman of Maryland.
"Roy Williams hasn't even scratched the surface yet, at some point he is going to explode"-Mooch