Harrington May Have Salvaged Career in Detroit

The questions about Lions starting quarterback Joey Harrington have grown with each one of last six weeks as Detroit won just once during that stretch. But ironically, in defeat, Harrington may have answered some of his critics and gained some respect in his teammates eyes.

(DETROIT) - The question about Lions starting quarterback Joey Harrington have grown with each one of last six weeks as Detroit won just once during that stretch.

But ironically, in defeat, Harrington may have answered some of his critics and gained some respect in his teammates eyes.

Harrington went 22 for 45 for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, compiling a 79.8 passer rating. But it was a seminal two-minute drive where Harrington marched the Lions from their own 20-yard line, eighty yards in nine plays to score what should have been the game tying score to send the contest into overtime.

But a poor snap by undrafted free agent long snapper Don Muhlbach and failure to handle it by holder Nick Harris, that robbed the Lions of the extra point and sent them to another loss.

Still, Harrington's performance raised hopes that he could be the player Detroit hoped for when they drafted him third overall in the 2001 NFL draft.

Harrington said his performance came as a result of some deep soul searching and an attitude change.

"I had a very definite mentality today. I was going to come out and just 'chuck it.' Screw it, said the Lions starter, "I needed to play better for my team and there was a point in the game - we had a three-and-out in the second half and we had a couple of scoring chances and two picks and a fumble - there was a point when the wheels could have come off but they didn't and we kept fighting."

Harrington had to do some fighting of his own just to be able to play in this contest.

"I got a call, I was in the hotel room," said Lions coach Steve Mariucci. I got a call from our trainer and you never like to hear from the trainer gameday morning. He said Joey is sick he's been up all night with the flu and we're going to get him on some IVs.

When I got here he was laying in the back on a table, not a pretty sight. I didn't know if he was going to be able to answer the bell or not."

Mariucci admitted he even contemplated demoting Harrington the third quarterback which is an inactive position. But Harrington convinced Mariucci that he was going to be the starter.

He needed to be the starter. He had something to prove.

Harrington said he came to the realization that he was playing too cautiously, too close to the vest to be succesful. Sure, he wasn't turning the ball over, but he wasn't making any plays either.

"You don't gain anything by being afraid to make a mistake," Harrington said. "Would you rather push it down and try to make a play and say "you know what, I'm going walk out of here with a win' or would you rather go back to the locker room and saying 'you know what we came close'. I'm tired of saying we came close."

The fans liked the new version of Harrington. When he scrambled out of the pocket needing 8 yards for a first down, instead of the old Joey who would pull a hook slide at the first sign of trouble, the new Joey took the ball and dove head first for the sticks. The fans cheered the run boisterously.

As Harrington engineered the two-minute drive that he hopes becomes the symbol of his transformation in Detroit, the fans chanted "Joey, Joey." Harrington said that was nice, but something more important was at stake.

"I'm not worried about how the crowd reacts. That's the business of playing professional football. And they want to win just as badly as the rest of us do. I was worried about playing for my teammates. Those are the guys I feel the biggest obligation to. The remarks by Harrington were a stunning admission that he was aware of his teammates growing doubt in his ability to ever lead the team to victory.

"I needed to go out and show those guys that I can do it. The crowd comes as a secondary [factor]. Obviously the fans are terrific and help us with momentum and everything during the game, but when you're on a team, you're teammates are your number one priority."

Did Harrington's performance, despite the special teams miscue and the loss answer any lingering questions from his teammates?

"I hope so," replied Harrington.

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