Joey Harrington will return to the Northwest this weekend, and 'anywhere from 300 and 5,000' of his closest family and friends will greet him Sunday at Seahawks Stadium.
'I'm so far away, it's nice to come close to home and feel wanted,' says Harrington, the Portland native who will quarterback the Detroit Lions (3-6) against the Seattle Seahawks (6-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday. 'Everybody I've talked with says they're coming to the game.'
Excuse the reference to feeling wanted, because Harrington has heard his share of boos and criticisms from Detroit fans this season Ñ but not in the last two weeks. The Lions have won two games in a row, getting strong defensive play against Oakland two weekends ago and last Sunday in a 12-10 win over Chicago.
Harrington completed 24 of 38 passes for 238 yards and no interceptions against Chicago, and he was 13 of 21 for 117 yards and one pick against Oakland. He has thrown for 1,347 yards, completing 52.8 percent and averaging an NFL-worst 5.01 yards per pass.
During Detroit's six-game losing streak, he threw 12 interceptions and four touchdown passes.
'Relief,' Harrington said last week. 'Nice to get the six-game losing streak monkey off our backs.'
Against Chicago, the Lions marched for a field goal in each quarter. Harrington led the Lions in position for Jason Hanson's game-winning field goal with 39 seconds left, completing 5 of 6 passes for all 35 yards in the drive.
The second-year quarterback says he will play second fiddle to the defense and Hanson any day.
'If I can play every game, control the clock, and we can run the ball and let the defense set the tempo,' Harrington says, 'it means we're controlling and dictating the game. When we throw 40 or 50 times, it's because we have to throw.'
His mother, Valerie, who also runs the Harrington Family Foundation, says several hundred people have bought tickets to Sunday's game. Two bus loads of Harrington family members and friends Ñ about 100 people Ñ will be going north after years of going south to Eugene to watch University of Oregon games.
'Grandma Madeline, age 83, will be riding along with us, God willing,' Valerie Harrington says. Gordon Lee, who was Joey's piano teacher in middle school, will be going, too, she says. The well-known jazz musician 'will be the honorary celebrity riding the bus with us.'
And don't forget the families of Uncle Mark from Sacramento and Uncle Brian from Bend. The Harrington Foundation also bought tickets for a Salem Boys and Girls Club football team, whose players and coaches will wear No. 3 -T-shirts and sit in section 313.
Valerie and John Harrington, Joey's dad, have juggled their schedules to attend their sons' football games for years Ñ not only traveling to see Joey, but also Michael, who plays at Idaho, and Nick, who serves as manager at Oregon.
The Lions beat Arizona in their first game as Harrington threw four TD passes and no interceptions. But then Detroit regressed. Coach Steve Mariucci benched Harrington against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 19, with Joey's parents, Oregon booster Phil Knight and Duck coach Mike Bellotti watching.
A bad throwing-hand finger has hurt Harrington, and he has been bothered by a bum shoulder, an injury he downplays. Either way, the Detroit fans have booed him lustily during poor performances. Many of his interceptions have been passes forced into coverage.
'I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt to get benched or booed by 60,000 fans,' he says. 'It hasn't shaken my confidence, that's the main thing. When you go through those tough stretches, it makes you tougher and stronger, and you realize how much you want to win.
'You're going to come out of it, and you have to be the same leader you were before you went into the funk. If (critics) take your self-confidence away, they have won.'