Jerome Harrison, Mike Bell join Lions
It was a much happier occasion than the last time they had been together.
Ten months after being traded for each other, Bell and Harrison were signed Monday night by the Lions, a few hours after promising rookie Mikel Leshoure tore his left Achilles tendon, ending his season before it began.
"We needed some running backs with Leshoure's injury and Maurice Morris still not cleared for contact with his (broken) hand," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. "Now we've been able to bring in two quality players with NFL experience."
Last October, Bell was traded from Philadelphia to Cleveland for Harrison, and the pair ran into each other en route to their new homes.
"We were in the Cleveland airport at about midnight, and I was getting off a plane and Jerome was waiting to get on," Bell said. "He had a mad face and I had a mad face. He said 'hey' and I said 'hey.' That was about it."
Bell and Harrison knew each other in the Pac-10 -- Harrison played at Washington State and Bell was at Arizona -- and played on the same team in the Senior Bowl.
Now, both players are getting a chance they never expected to get.
For Bell, it is just another shot at the NFL. He rushed for only 99 yards last season between the Eagles and Browns, and thought his career was probably over.
"I was so unproductive last season that I didn't think my phone would ring," he said. "I was behind a Pro Bowl-caliber player in Philly in LeSean McCoy, then behind a Pro Bowl-caliber player in Peyton Hillis. I didn't get much of a shot, and I thought that was probably it."
That's why he didn't hesitate when he got the call in Colorado on Monday.
"I wasn't going to wait for a second offer," he said. "I got on the first thing smoking toward Detroit."
Harrison knew he would get another chance because it has been less than two years since he broke Jim Brown's Cleveland rushing record with a 286-yard game against the Chiefs.
"That day was a dream come true, to go past Jim Brown for a record," he said. "But I don't think much about that day. I'll think about that when I'm done."
The Michigan native, though, was thrilled when a call came from the Lions.
"My parents are both from here, and I'm from Kalamazoo," he said. "This is the team I grew up watching."
More than the team, though, Harrison was watching a single player.
"I was a Barry Sanders guy. Period," he said. "He's the only back that I've ever tried to run like. To walk in here today, and put on the same uniform, and see all the pictures of him today, it just blew my mind."
Schwartz emphasized that Harrison and Bell aren't in a one-on-one battle for Leshoure's roster spot.
"It is way too early in camp to be thinking about numbers in that detail," he said. "We've got two new backs who bring different games to the table. They are both going to get every chance to help us and make this team."
Schwartz dismissed reports that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan might have tampered with then-Dolphins running back Ricky Williams after a game last season. Williams signed Monday with Baltimore, choosing the Ravens over the Lions. "I asked Scott about it, and it was just the exact conversation that coaches have after every game with opposing players that they've worked with before," Schwartz said. "You say hello, you might chat a bit and you wish them well and that you hope your paths cross again some day. That's it. That's life in the NFL." ... Leshoure is expected to have surgery later this week on his Achilles tendon. ... Schwartz said that tests on OT Jason Fox's injured foot showed no fractures, and that he could return in two to three weeks.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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