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The 29-year-old has always been a fan of the musical stylings. “The Temptations” is his favorite movie. They are also his favorite musical group — his mother used to play their music all the time when he was a kid — so it was fitting that when his agent called Tuesday to say he would be leaving the New York Giants for Detroit, there was only one thing he could be doing.
Watching old video interviews of the Temptations on his phone.
“I’m a huge Motown guy,” Harrison said.
Now, the defensive tackle considered one of the best in the NFL will have a bit more time to explore his new home, both in music and in football. By trading for Harrison, the Lions shored up one of the biggest holes on their roster, the run defense. The 353-pound Harrison is a big man in the middle who forces opponents to account for him on the inside.
And while he didn’t know too much about his role yet — he said Friday that he’s still learning the playbook — his presence inside will only help Detroit’s defense.
“Really hard to block one-on-one,” said Lions linebacker Devon Kennard, who also played with him in New York. “He’s one of [the best], if not the best player, at the nose tackle position. So glad to have him back and be playing with him again. Exciting to get him going.”
When he’ll get going for the Lions is perhaps the only question. Harrison started practicing with the team on Thursday. He also worked out Friday. His status for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, according to both Harrison and Lions coach Matt Patricia, has yet to be determined.
If he does play, he could end up being the ninth player since 1978 to play 17 games in one season, and the first since James Anderson in 2014.
He’d also become the first lineman — offensive or defensive — to pull off the feat. The eight others, including Jerry Rice, were either wide receivers, running backs, linebackers or defensive backs. The 17 games is something Harrison realized quickly.
“That I do know,” Harrison said. “It was one of the first things I was made aware of, the bye week is gone here. I’m just excited to get on the field, whenever that may be.”
That’s something Detroit said it would monitor, because in a rough league like the NFL, getting a break matters. Of course, the Lions do have a mini-bye coming off of Thanksgiving a month from now.
“It’s definitely something I’m conscious of just with the players in the NFL,” Patricia said. “It’s a hard thing to do as a player. So, we’ll try to do the best we can with it and work through that.
“Certainly, we just want him to feel comfortable in everything that we’re doing and feel like everything is moving in a direction where he knows that he could go out and execute properly and be productive. We certainly don’t want to put him in a situation where he doesn’t have a chance to do that. So, again, it is a process that we have to go through when those transitions happen. That’s why we’re just trying to make sure our main focus right now is Seattle. We just have to really stay focused on them.”
If the Lions have Harrison for the Seahawks, he’ll help Detroit against a team averaging 127.8 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. But the trade for Harrison was made with the rest of the season in mind — to help Detroit become contenders in the NFC North.
Neither Patricia nor Harrison would delve much into the role he will play or what his presence could mean for the rest of Detroit’s defense.
But Harrison’s new teammates are clearly pumped for his arrival. Golden Tate left him a box full of (obviously) snacks in his new locker. And the guys he played with before know what Detroit is getting and how he can fit in to the new defense both stopping the run and drawing attention away from the Lions’ pass-rushers. So it might help more than just the run game.
“Definitely could,” Kennard said. “I think more players you can have that can make huge impacts is more attention, so I think it’ll help in all aspects of the game.”