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Oregons Lion doesnt shirk expectations

Joey Harrington packs up for Detroit, smiles for trading-card camera

Joey Harrington's pro football career gains speed next week when he flies to Los Angeles to realize the dream of kids who fantasize about being star athletes.

It's a four-day bonanza called the 'rookie premier,' when trading card companies gather to snap photos of first-year NFL players. Yes, collectors soon will be able to buy boxes of NFL-licensed trading cards and possibly get the pack with No. 3, the clean-cut Detroit Lions quarterback, inside.

Harrington also leaves the family flock next week, searching for an apartment or condo in the Detroit area and getting back to business. The Lions' next minicamp starts after Memorial Day.

The two-week camp is important because the Lions and Harrington's agent, David Dunn, will watch his progress and establish their game plans. Contract negotiations heat up in June, and by the start of training camp July 17, Harrington plans to sign.

Quarterback David Carr, the draft's No. 1 pick, agreed to a contract with Houston for nearly $60 million, including an $11 million signing bonus. As the No. 3 pick, Harrington is in line to get a deal not far behind, although the 23-year-old from Portland suddenly thrust into being king of his own domain says 'I don't care' whether his money matches Carr's.

But your agent cares, doesn't he?

'He doesn't care because I don't care,' says Harrington, who spent this week training in Eugene. 'He works for me. He's not driving the ship.

'Besides, I don't have a lot of leeway. Everything's slotted. I'm slotted as the third pick.'

Not entirely true, Dunn says. In setting up Harrington's contract, Dunn can go in many directions with the signing bonus, escalator clauses, incentives, voids and buybacks. The top rookies generally make the big bucks with their multimillion-dollar bonuses and gut out the early years of their careers with sub-$1 million salaries.

'There are good deals and bad deals throughout the draft,' Dunn says. 'Every team has different priorities. It is also market driven,' with an NFL team drawing up rookie contracts dependent on income and payroll.

'A priority for Joey is to be compensated if he plays well over a period of time,' Dunn says. 'You don't want to be underpaid down the line.'

Dunn says the contract will be structured to reflect whether Harrington becomes the starter this season or simply sits and learns behind Mike McMahon and Ty Detmer. 'You want to cover all scenarios, worst case to best case,' Dunn says.

For now, this is somewhat mumbo jumbo to Harrington, who just likes to play football. But like it or not, he'll be hearing more on money matters in late June when the NFL holds its 'rookie symposium' to teach new players how to be prudent and conduct themselves.

Two weekends ago, Harrington went through his first minicamp at the Lions' new practice facility. Team officials told Dunn that Harrington was 'a quick study' who 'throws the ball well.'

Harrington says the terminology of Detroit's offense sounded like 'Chinese' to him, but 'I made rookie mistakes and young mistakes Ñ not stupid mistakes.'

Life as a pro also includes being treated as an employee, not as a college kid.

'You are there for a reason: You can throw the ball well, catch the ball well and run the ball well,' Harrington says. 'That's what they expect you to do. No tolerance for mistakes. The reality is, if you make too many mistakes, they'll get another guy. It's just different; it's kinda weird right now.'

Harrington also impressed Detroit media, fans and management with how he handled the attention. Harrington has worked with his cousins, who are media consultants, for more than a year.

'We're still working together,' he says. 'We have something new, a new area to work, Detroit. A new chapter. Different people to speak with. For lack of better words, 'hard-nosed' people with very direct questions Ñ the media, and fans of professional teams, expect a lot.'

Contact Jason Vondersmith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .