'I'm tired of hurting': Lions' Damon Harrison ponders retirement after taxing season
Allen Park — After an injury-plagued and mentally deflating season, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Damon Harrison is strongly considering retirement this offseason.
In an emotional interview in the locker room following the Lions' 23-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Harrison fought through the tears as he talked about the difficult decision ahead.
"It's been tough," Harrison said, stopping multiple times to cover his face with a towel. "Fought through some injuries all year and wasn't able to ever get back to the form I'm used to. I've got too much pride, man. I've been doing this too long. If I can't be the player I'm used to being, I think my teammates deserve better, my family deserves better, the fans deserve better."
Harrison made it clear he hasn't made a final decision. He plans to talk over his options with his family. But if he determines he's no longer able to perform at the level he's established during his nine-year career, he isn't interested in hanging on as a shell of his former self.
"I've given everything I can give," Harrison said. "Nobody is more disappointed about this season and my performance than I am. I'm hard on myself, man. Like I said, I've given everything to every team I've played for. I don't feel bad if that's the decision. I've got a lot of thinking to do this offseason. I'm going to seek some different options and try to figure it out because I can't be that guy that I want to be and I know I can be then I've got to hang it up because everybody deserves that.
"When you can't make the plays you're used to making, and you go back and watch the film and you know you don't have any excuses, I think it's just a situation where my mind is saying yes, but my body is saying ...," Harrison continued. "I just have got to fix it."
An undrafted free agent out of William Penn in 2012, Harrison latched on with the New York Jets to begin his career, moving into the team's starting lineup during his second season. After four years with the Jets, he landed a lucrative free-agent deal across town, with the Giants, before coming to Detroit in a midseason trade last year. His addition helped transform one of the league's worst run defense into one of the best.
This offseason, Harrison staged a mini-holdout, staying away from the team throughout the offseason program, including mandatory minicamp, in search of a contract extension and additional financial security from the Lions.
After he reported to training camp on time, the Lions gave him a one-year extension on top of his current contract, which included that additionally security in the form of a $7.5 million signing bonus.
But injuries plagued the typically durable Harrison from the start of the campaign. He missed much of training camp with an undisclosed issue. Then, during the season, he missed extensive practice time with knee, calf and groin injuries. The groin issue even caused him to sit out the team's Thanksgiving game, ending a 109-game appearance streak, the longest active among defense tackles at the time.
"All year I've just been hurting," Harrison said. "It's been something new every week and I'm really just tired of hurting, trying to fight through it."
Lions coach Matt Patricia, speaking more generally when asked about Harrison's impending decision, said he recommends all players take their time when considering their football future.
"That's why we're here," Patricia said. "That's why I'm a coach. I try to do everything I can to assist those games not only in the game of football, but also outside the game of football they need help with.
"For us, my message is always pretty clear to the players — I think just take a minute," Patricia continued. "It's an emotional game. We just got done playing a really hard game. We just got done playing physical, competitive game and emotions are high, as they always are after a football game, and everyone has to kind of let that settle."
Harrison recorded three tackles against the Packers and finished with 48 on the season. He had 50 in 10 games with the Lions last season, plus 31 more in seven games played with the Giants.