The Detroit Lions’ divorce from Damon Harrison Sr.—a player who was a key piece of their defense in 2018 and one of their most talented bodies on that side of the ball—was sudden and surprising. While true, Harrison was coming off a rough 2019 season, there was no indication the Lions were displeased with his play, nor did the team have a backup plan in place.
Since the Lions decided to release him back in February, Harrison has dropped some hints about the move, which he has called a “mutual agreement.” He has said things were just not a good fit in Detroit, but maintained his time with the Lions was a blessing.
“I’m thankful for my time in Detroit even though it was short time,” Harrison wrote in a farewell tweet. “Last year didn’t go as any of us planned and I take full responsibility for my part in it. I never pointed the finger at anyone but myself and I never spoke negatively about anyone but myself. I grew to have a genuine love for the people of detroit because of their passion about EVERYTHING Detroit.”
However, Harrison joined the “Green Light” podcast with former NFL defensive end Chris Long this week, and he painted a much different picture about his time with the Lions.
The trouble, it seems, started from the very beginning. Harrison found out he had been traded from the Giants to the Lions and immediately wanted out.
“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 admitted. “When I got the call that that’s where I was traded, I didn’t answer the phone for a couple hours. (Lions GM) 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.”
Harrison eventually picked up the phone and landed in Detroit. His impact was almost immediate on the field. He transformed the Lions’ run defense from one of the worst in the league, to instantly one of the best.
Everyone already knows that @snacks has made a huge difference in the #Lions run defense, but the statistics are STAGGERING:— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 20, 2018
Week 1-9: 142.5 rushing yards/game (29th), 5.14 YPC (31st)
Week 10-15: 79.2 rushing yards/game (2nd), 3.4 YPC (2nd)
But behind closed doors, there seemed to be a growing clash of philosophies between Harrison and what coaches wanted from him.
“I was a nose tackle my entire career, 1-technique, shade, 0 (tech), some two-wide. I get there and it’s two three-techniques. For me, and my career, the most frightening thing for me is playing three technique, because of how far back the guards were set. And I felt like I would have to stand up, because I wasn’t much of a get-off guy.”
That said, Harrison admitted that the Lions tried to accommodate with Harrison’s request to play more nose and 0-tech.
“We had some conversations about not (playing 3-tech) anymore, and they kind of incorporated some of that 0, nose shade in there to fit my play style, but it was something that I wasn’t comfortable with,” Harrison said.
In his time in Detroit, his split between three-tech and the nose was almost 50/50. Per PFF, he played 426 snaps around the three-tech and 454 at the nose.
But despite this accommodation from the Lions, it wasn’t enough, and it started take a mental toll on Harrison, especially last year.
“I wasn’t prepared for the season mentally,” Harrison said. “I came into camp in shape, but during the first three weeks in camp, I think I worked myself out of shape, because I wasn’t doing anything. That was the time, to be honest with you, we were trying to facilitate a trade. I was hell bent on getting out of there.”
The timing of Harrison’s side of the story is a bit odd, considering he chose to sign a one-year extension with the Lions in August of 2019, just before the season began.
However, since then, Harrison has said, “The extension wasn’t what y’all think it was. I’ll speak more on it when I retire.” His deal really only included a $2 million raise, and no security for being in Detroit—as evidenced by his release this year. Though it’s still unclear why Harrison decided to sign the deal if he was so distraught with his fit in Detroit.
Despite the clear desire to get out of Detroit, Snacks said he has all the respect in the world for the city of Detroit and it’s fans. As for head coach Matt Patricia, Harrison said his respects extends to him, and that wasn’t the reason he wanted out.
“Matt Patricia’s a great coach, a great guy. I have a lot of respect for Matt Patricia. It had nothing to do with him personally.”
You can listen to the entire interview here. Harrison’s talks specifically about the Lions around the 29:05 mark.