He's Baaaack: Harrington To Start Sunday

ALLEN PARK - Well, that didn't take long. With injuries preventing veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia from any significant practice time, and a string of impressive repetitions from former starter Joey Harrington, the maligned, fourth-year quarterback has regained his job.

That was the message delivered by Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci on Thursday, who conceded that Harrington would likely start Sunday's contest at Minnesota.

"(Jeff and I) spoke this morning and he doesn't feel well enough to have a good practice right now with that leg," said Mariucci referring to Garcia's still-sore sprained ankle. "My conversation with him went a little bit like this: 'do you think this is a week where you should be the backup, the No. 2 or No. 3?' That is a decision now that we should make.

"Joey is having a good week. So it looks like Joey will play and like I said, he has been practicing well lately. If Jeff gets virtually no work this week, then probably we can make him the third guy and make sure he doesn't get in the game."

Mariucci still held out a remote possibility that Garcia could start, depending on whether or not he can practice at full-speed on Friday, but that isn't likely. Garcia has been unable to complete three-step drops without a significant amount of pain.

Harrington was benched following a loss to Carolina three weeks ago. Since, Garcia has led the team to a win at Cleveland, but his overtime interception toss against Chicago put more doubt in his ability to be anymore effective than Harrington. Compounded by his injured leg, Harrington's surprisingly strong play in practice, and the decision to make another switch wasn't exactly complicated.

Mariucci said Harrington has handled the adversity well.

"I am hoping maybe it was good for him to watch Jeff play and get away from it for a little bit. Maybe a load off of his shoulders and off his mind and I think he is a little bit rejuvenated and I think he has practiced well. He has some energy out there, some rah-rah and some leadership and some spunk. He is rested. I think he is going to play a heck of a game. All indications point in that direction to me."

In several strong practice performances, Harrington was throwing the ball down the field extremely well. It is something that the Lions will attempt to focus on more to jumpstart an offense that continues to be stagnant. Detroit is currently third-to-last in the league offensively. With the return of wide receiver Charles Rogers from suspension, and the possible return of wide receiver Roy Williams from injury, Harrington's return -- and Mariucci's willingness to open the playbook -- could be timely.

"Physically, Joey has a certain arm size and strength and capabilities and other quarterbacks are different from that," said Mariucci of willing to allow Harrington to take more risks downfield. "I think in terms of decision-making and being able to throw the ball down the field like we did a little bit in practice today, which options are always available to him, maybe he will be more likely to do that (after) having seen Jeff do that over a couple of weeks of practice time; when to take a shot and when to throw the alert post probably benefited him from watching.

"That is a decision-making thing; that is not a physical thing necessarily."

Harrington learned of the decision not from Mariucci, but the media, who informed of his promotion following practice.

"It feels great. Thanks for letting me know," laughed Harrington. "I said when Jeff took over that I'm going to be ready for whatever happens. I'm not going to quit and I'm not going into the tank. If this is just a one week thing until Jeff gets healthy then so be it and if it's for the rest of the season, great. No matter the situation I'm going to be ready to play."

Asked whether or not he was afraid to make any more mistakes throwing downfield, Harrington was blunt.

"What are they going to do? Bench me?" asked a tongue-in-cheek Harrington. "I have been through it all now."

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