Returning to the confines of Detroit, Michigan from a traditional family vacation, Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington became disgruntled during his return trip.
Yet another season filled with expectations, a former Pro Bowl vet quarterback on his heels, and the prevalent "pressure" questions. Back to Detroit. Home of the pressure cooker. You almost couldn't blame him if he didn't want to show up.
But that's only if that was the reason Harrington was peeved.
"On the drive back I am always really upset... because that is the signal that it is the end of the summer," Harrington said following Friday's opening practice session. "As soon as I get packed up and then get off of the plane here, it hits me again and I get excited to play football.
"I had some butterflies last night. I was up at about 3:00 or 3:30 a.m. I was excited and ready to get out here. I am glad that we got the first practice over with and now we can kind of get into a routine."
Harrington is well aware of how pivotal the forthcoming campaign is -- he's reminded of it every day. The former No. 3 overall pick is entering camp after three consecutive losing seasons, leaving him as the only remaining scapegoat. But, with an improved supporting cast, Harrington is certain that the team can improve upon last year's 6-10 mark.
"We are optimistic because we like the guys out here," he said. "It's a talented young group of players that has some experience under our belts. That is why we are optimistic right now.
"I am tired of losing games on the last drive. I am tired of being close. We have made baby steps, but it is time to win football games."
The Lions lost three games by three points or less in 2004, a swing that could have placed the team at 9-7 and in post-season contention if the ball bounced the team's way more often. Harrington said his team "has to get a few breaks" in 2005 as well.
"And then you get some confidence. That is why it has been so frustrating for me personally. I came from a place where all we did was win. What I have learned... is that it is just a matter of getting the ball to bounce your way one time.
"We have to work hard enough to be in the right position at the right time. Once that first domino falls, you get this huge rush of confidence and you think, 'you know what we can do this."
Harrington used the 2001 Chicago Bears as an illustration, who parlayed the enthusiasm of consecutive game-winning Mike Brown plays into a 13-3 season.
"There is very little separating the 6-10 teams from the 10-6 teams. It is just a matter of getting a break and running with it."
But unlike last season, Harrington will also have the full compliment of a running attack -- something sorely missed during 2004. Second-year tailback Kevin Jones will enter the season as the clear starter, and demonstrated he was worthy of the position during the last eight games of the season.
"I believe that a good running game is the cornerstone to any offense," Harrington said. "When we ran the football, it gave us an unbelievable amount of confidence when we were throwing the football because we knew we were not throwing in third-and-eleven situations. We were converting third-and-fours instead of third-and-longs.
"(Kevin) is talented, there is no denying that. We have seen that since the second that he came in here. He took about eight games to really get into a flow. Once he did it, he hit his stride pretty well. We have all seen that talent in him."
Statistically improving since his rookie year, Joey Harrington still hasn't received much credence -- primarily because those numbers haven't translated into the win column. But despite the naysayers, the former Oregon Duck thrives in a situation that most would find, well, as upsetting as the end of summer.
"That is why I play the position," admitted Harrington. "I love that pressure. I love people looking at me in the huddle and expecting me to do things on the field. That is part of my nature and that is what I enjoy about this game.
"My preparation has not changed and I am expecting to win some football games."
Harrington: "I am expecting to win"
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