Lions quarterback says he's into full relaxation mode

It's rest and relaxation time for Joey Harrington, who just returned from vacation in New Zealand and now plans to be an Ordinary Joey around home for a while.

'I'm a big believer in you play hard, you rest hard,' the Portland native and Detroit Lions quarterback says. 'When I'm off, I'm off. My mind is off the pressure and the hassle, and when I get back into it, I'm ready to go.'

Harrington went to the Super Bowl last year with his little brother, Nick, but he won't attend the game this week. 'It's too much hype for me,' Harrington says. 'The focus shifts from the game to what happens during the week and at halftime.'

And, he'll remind you, he doesn't do hype very well. He doesn't like the word 'celebrity' and all that goes with it, although the former UO great graciously gave his time to be co-host of the Oregon Sports Awards on Sunday at Nike.

He would dearly love to be playing football at this time of year, preparing for the Super Bowl. But the Lions, who went 5-11 in Harrington's second season, still have to think about being .500 and making the playoffs first.

'I've thought about it,' he says, of playing in the Super Bowl. 'I can imagine it, but it doesn't seem very real.'

He has played against both Super Bowl teams, losing both times. He threw some costly interceptions and got booed Thanksgiving Day 2002 against New England, and played gamely against Carolina in the second-to-last game this season.

So how close are the Lions to being the next Carolina Panthers, an awful team two years ago that now stands on the brink of winning it all in the parity-stricken NFL?

'I couldn't even tell you,' Harrington says. 'Until we come back into camp, I can't put a finger on it. We'll have guys cut, we'll have free agents come in, we'll have a whole new draft class.'

Certainly, Harrington says, he would welcome more offensive weapons around him, such as another receiver to complement Charles Rogers and a big-time running back. Detroit drafts high again, and the Lions will get their guy.

'It depends on which region you're in,' he says, of who Detroit might select. 'If you're in the Midwest, we need Chris Perry. If you're on the West Coast, we need Steven Jackson. If you're in the South, we need Roy Williams. If you're in the East, we need Larry Fitzgerald.'

In the meantime, Harrington and the Lions can savor their last game, a 30-20 win over playoff-bound St. Louis, which made them 5-3 at home.

'We've gone into the offseason feeling good about ourselves,' he says. 'You have five months where, instead of stewing on all the bad stuff, you have something positive to think about.'

Harrington finished with his best game of the year, completing 26 of 36 passes for 238 yards, three TDs and only one interception.

Interestingly, he bracketed the other 14 games with his best two, as he threw four TDs in the season-opener against Arizona.

He finished 309 of 554 (56 percent) for 2,880 yards, 17 TDs and 22 interceptions. His QB rating (63.9) ranked last in the league for the second consecutive year, but his completion percentage went up by five points.

'The last six or seven games I felt pretty good, felt I improved and felt like I was more consistent,' says Harrington, who will report to the Lions around March 1. 'It's a matter of getting some guys (around me) and putting some pieces together.'

And, despite rumors floating around that he was going to switch first names, he still goes by 'Joey,' not 'Joe,' the name by which his family calls him.

'I leave the continent for a while, come back and somebody changes my name,' he says.

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