Damon Harrison knew how much better he had it in New York.
Midway through his seventh season, “Snacks” had only ever played for the Jets and Giants, transforming from an undrafted free agent to a First Team All-Pro. When he learned he would be heading to Detroit, as part of the Giants fire sale in October 2018, Harrison refused to accept it as reality.
“To be completely honest with you, I didn’t want to go to Detroit because of some things that I heard from some guys in the past and some guys who were there,” Harrison said on Chris Long’s “Green Light” podcast. “So when I got the call that that’s where I was traded, I didn’t answer the phone for a couple hours. (Lions general manager) Bob Quinn was calling me and I didn’t pick up the phone because I was trying to figure out a way to get out of it.”
Nothing changed in the next year. Harrison arrived at his first training camp with the Lions on the non-football injury list, desperately looking for a way out of Detroit and to a more friendly defensive scheme for the 350-pound run stopper.
“I came into camp in shape, but during the first three weeks of camp I think I kind of worked myself out of shape because I wasn’t doing anything,” Harrison said. “That was a time where, to be honest with you, we were trying to facilitate a trade. I was hell-bent on getting out of there.”
Harrison, 31, was released by the Lions in February after recording just 49 totals last season, marking his lowest output since his 2012 rookie campaign with the Jets.
“Mentally I was just out of it, man,” Harrison said. “I couldn’t focus on football. I was too busy trying to get caught back up with everything. It was a rough training camp for me, the roughest training camp of my career, and I just spent a lot of time just pondering my future.”
Among the ideas Harrison considered was retirement, though the defensive tackle has since determined he still wants to play whenever — or almost wherever — next season begins.
“It’s nothing against the people of Detroit, the city or anything like that,” Harrison said. “I’ll forever love the city of Detroit, but I just had to go try to put myself into a situation where I saw myself there for two or three years to end my career, and I just didn’t see myself in Detroit for that long.”
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