Harris: Foote scoffs that he's a Lion in waiting
Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote is the type of player every championship team should have on its roster.
He's heady and productive, and you won't find a better teammate. His strong run support is a perfect complement to Lawrence Timmons' obvious strengths against the pass.
So why was Foote pledging his allegiance to the Steelers a week after winning Super Bowl XLIII• And why did the Detroit native feel compelled to tell me he has no desire to play for his hometown Lions, despite a newspaper article that implied otherwise?
"It would be ludicrous for me to say I want to leave my last year. It would be stupid to even want to do that," Foote said. "The bottom line is in 2002 the Lions had a chance to draft me. They chose not to. The Steelers did."
Foote was a fourth-round draft pick from Michigan, the 128th player selected.
"I can relate to all the pain of not getting picked on the first day and see bums go ahead of me. The Steelers (drafted) me," Foote said. "I'm a Steeler. I'm a Super Bowl champion."
Foote remains upset over comments appearing in the Detroit Free Press a few days before Super Bowl XLIII. They were attributed to longtime friend Brian Blackburn, who said about Foote, "He wants to come back here. This is the last year of his contract, and he wants to come back here and play for the Lions for about four years and call it quits after that."
Foote, 28, will be entering the final year of a $13.4 million contract extension he signed after winning Super Bowl XL.
"That was one of my boys just talking stupid stuff in the paper," Foote said this week. "I think all players say that toward the tail end: 'I'll just end up going home and finish up there.' But that was just talk."
Foote wants to finish his career with the team that gave him his start, but there's two sides to every story. The final year of his contract isn't guaranteed, and there's the not-so-small matter of Foote holding off Timmons for the starting spot.
By Foote's own admission, Timmons, listed on the 2008 depth chart as a backup, appeared in more plays than Foote in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl victory over Arizona.
"Quiet as it's kept," Foote said, "everybody knows my role is reduced, no doubt about that."
Speaking with reporters, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said he expects Foote to return.
"Foote is under contract," Colbert said. "Any player who is a starter and still a contributor, it would be hard to make any kind of adjustments."
Reduced pay for reduced play in 2009• Foote, scheduled to earn $2.885 million, said he wouldn't accept a pay cut.
"If they want to reduce my salary, I understand where they're coming from," Foote said. "I still think I'm in my prime. I have some good years ahead of me, so I'm not going to accept that. I haven't heard anything like that."
What about potential free agency after next season?
"Would somebody want me• I don't know. I've never been a free agent. I've never been on the market," he said. "I don't know if the Lions even want me. My play hasn't dropped off, just my (playing) time has dropped off. I can be as productive as any linebacker in the league with the opportunity."