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Harrington, Mariucci go right to work

Second-year QB says new coach's offense is 'exactly the same'

Joey Harrington returned to Detroit 12 days ago, just in time to find about 8 inches of new snow in the back yard of his condominium.

He had spent some vacation time in the Caribbean, some weeks in sunny Southern California playing golf and working out, and several days at home visiting family and friends in Eugene and Portland, which hasn't seen significant snow in years. Snow? That's culture shock.

'It's cold,' Harrington said Wednesday at the Lions' training facility in suburban Allen Park. 'It's very, very cold, and I'm not playing golf.'

Harrington might still be

hibernating,

until Detroit's minicamp March 30-April 1, if not for some much needed work under new coach Steve Mariucci and quarterback coach Kevin Higgins, who look to help the young QB from Oregon improve on his up-and-down rookie season.

Higgins and Mariucci have been putting Harrington through 'quarterback school,' as they break down video from last year.

Harrington's season ended Dec. 15, when he suffered an irregular heartbeat against Tampa Bay and ended up in the hospital. Doctors performed a minor procedure on his heart, and Harrington says he feels 'completely fine' and doesn't take medication. As a joke, Nike sent him a heart rate-monitor watch, which he toys around with while working out.

The angst of his drop-off and having had his season end so abruptly motivates him, he says. He finished with 12 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 50.1 percent completion rate. His QB rating of 59.9 was lowest among NFL starters.

'I went through some highs, like the New Orleans game and winning three of the first six games,' he says. 'I also went through some lows. I got booed. That doesn't sit well. It doesn't sit well because I know that I can play better, and I know that I should be playing better.'

Watching video, he realizes how poorly he played at times.

'I needed to make quicker decisions,' he says. 'I was late on some balls. I didn't see some coverages. Those are things that come with comfort. Those are things that come with reps. Those are the things that come from being in those game situations.

'Honestly, the whole season I felt good. I felt like I was making progress. I say that because I didn't make many mistakes a second time.'

With Mariucci's hiring, the Lions have higher hopes, even higher than when the Lions made Harrington the No. 3 pick in last year's draft and tagged him as their franchise quarterback.

Harrington says there will be little difference in the West Coast offense from the one run under former coach Marty Mornhinweg, who was shown the door when Mariucci became available. 'It's exactly the same, to be honest,' Harrington says. 'Same terminology, same checks, same reads.'

Harrington wishes Mornhinweg the best Ñ he landed in Philadelphia as assistant head coach Ñ but he welcomes Mariucci, a proven winner.

'He brings a vision, he brings excitement, he brings a passion to this organization that I think has been missing for a while,' he says. 'I think he'll be very hands-on. What I really like about him is that he's very detail-oriented.'

Harrington plans to participate in both Lion minicamps, the first in two weeks, the other May 2-4 after the NFL draft. The Lions hope to get a receiver to complement Harrington, and it could be Michigan State's Charles Rogers.

The Lions also are focusing on upgrading the defense, recently signing defensive back DrŽ Bly.

'I think that we're on a great track,' Harrington says.

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