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Steelers

Harrington relaxed as Lions prepare for Steelers

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2003

DETROIT -- Joey Harrington is glad he doesn't feel like he did 12 months ago.

"Last year at this time, my head was just spinning," Harrington said. "I feel a lot more confident and comfortable in my role on this team right now, which is really good, especially for a quarterback entering the start of a season."

But the second-year Lions quarterback doesn't yet feel like a veteran.

"I still feel very young. It's going to take a while," he said.

It has not taken Harrington long to forget about the reason his season ended abruptly last year.

He was taken away from Ford Field and to a hospital Dec. 15 when, in a game against Tampa Bay, his heartbeat raced at over 270 beats per minute. Two days later, he underwent a procedure to treat the irregular heartbeat.

When Harrington starts for the Lions in their first preseason game today against the Steelers, he will step foot on the turf for the first time in any sort of game since the day he was removed from it.

Harrington and the rest of Detroit's starters are expected to play for about half the game under new coach Steve Mariucci.

Former Lions quarterback Charlie Batch is expected to relieve Tommy Maddox in the second quarter and play into the third quarter.

Detroit cut Batch, who had three years and $10 million left on his contract, before last season to make room for Harrington. Batch was a starter in parts of four injury-plagued seasons for the Lions.

Batch signed with his hometown Steelers last summer and then played in a preseason game at Detroit in what was the first game played on Ford Field.

"I haven't played since last August, so I'm looking forward to getting back out there," Batch said. "Obviously, playing Detroit, it's a double positive for me.

"I just want to get on the field and play some ball."

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher takes preseason games seriously.

"I think it is very important that we go out there and play crisp and play fast and with confidence," Cowher said. "We don't want to make mental mistakes. I know it is important to develop that style quickly and find out what our identity is."

Cowher usually does not talk about individuals who have caught his eye during training camp, but he made an exception for running back Dante Brown, an undrafted free agent from Memphis.

"This kid has shown some toughness, some speed," Cowher said. "He has been able to hit holes. I keep saying what is the hole in this guy• Why was he a free agent?"

Mariucci is excited about his Lions debut against Pittsburgh.

"It's going to be fun to see where we are," Mariucci said. "Pittsburgh's got a good team so we'll know how we match up against a playoff-caliber team. That's the good part about playing Pittsburgh early, you're going to find out what the other playoff-type teams are like."

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