‘It Couldn’t Have Been a Better Moment:’ Lions Veteran Details Protest

Duron Harmon

Getty Duron Harmon when he played with the Patriots.

The Detroit Lions captivated the NFL world last week when they abruptly stopped practice and made a statement following the shooting of Jacob Blake, and the story from behind the scenes is even more interesting.

How did that situation come about specifically, though? Lions safety Duron Harmon was one of the veteran players involved, and the discussion began that Tuesday morning with the frustration of him and the rest of the team over the Blake incident and the willingness of their coaching staff to listen.

Speaking with Peter King of NBC Sports in a recent piece, Harmon explained his frustrated feelings and how he shared them with teammates, staff members and Matt Patricia. From there, Patricia listened and let his players dictate the course of the day and the conversation.

Here’s what Harmon told King about how things played out:

“I came in Tuesday, and you could feel the sadness on the team. Disappointment, fear, anger. I was getting some treatment, and [strength and conditioning coach] Josh Schuler said, ‘How you doing?’ I said, ‘Not good. I’m not gonna lie to you. It keeps happening. George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, now Jacob Blake.’ Then Matty P [coach Matt Patricia] pulled me to the side and said, ‘You okay?’ I told him too. He said he wanted to give the team a chance to have an open dialogue, and wherever it goes, it goes. We spent about two hours—it didn’t feel like two hours—and white, Black, everyone talked it out. Great conversation. Then we went to the locker room, and we weren’t done. We kept talking, and [linebacker] Jaylin Reeves-Maybin said, ‘If we go out there and say how much this matters, then we go out and practice, what meaning would it all have?’ Matty P basically said, whatever you guys feel, I’m on board. We’re a team. He wanted to make sure our voices were heard. It couldn’t have been a better moment.”

From there, the Lions stopped practice, came out and made a powerful statement to the assembled media. Harmon, Trey Flowers and Taylor Decker spoke, and their insightful words have reverberated since. While many haven’t given the Lions credit, the team did take the first step in public sports protest which was later followed by NBA squads, WNBA teams, MLB teams and NHL teams.

Everything began with the willingness of Patricia to listen to his players, and the players’ willingness to share and care. As Harmon said, it truthfully was a special moment in time.

Nate Burleson Credits Matt Patricia for Lions Protest

Patricia listened to his players and as a result, managed to help facilitate one of the most meaningful responses to a tragedy that sports has seen. As a result of that response, folks are crediting Patricia for his leadership of the team.

On Good Morning Football, Nate Burleson, a former wideout of the team, said he gives Patricia all the credit in the world for being able to unify the squad, listen and help everybody to feel better about their role in the bigger conversation.

Burleson said:

“I salute Matt Patricia for walking in and looking at his team and understanding that the moment is much bigger than getting a few reps. I get it, the season is around the corner but real life is right now. Like I said, I am real proud of this team. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Support has rolled in for the Lions, from Gil Brandt to others and Patricia is getting a ton of credit for listening and letting his team be forward thinking enough to make a strong positive statement like they did. There’s no doubt this will only endear players to each other and to Patricia more in the grand scheme.

Obviously, the act was bigger than football itself, but it certainly doesn’t hurt Patricia to have everyone pulling the same direction heading into a new season.

Duron Harmon Credits Matt Patricia for Lions Leadership

Harmon thinks that Patricia deserves a ton of credit for the team’s unified and positive response to the ongoing nationwide discussion this offseason as a whole. As he said in a recent interview with DetroitLions.com, Patricia should be praised for his handling of the situation and his allowing for the team to share their viewpoints openly and putting football on the back burner for the time being.

Harmon said:

“I believe we’ve been going a lot deeper than some other teams. Obviously I can’t speak for other teams, I’m just speaking off the experiences we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve had conversations each and every day last week. Matty P did a great job brining attention to the team last Friday. He’s given us an opportunity as black men to express our frustrations and for our white brothers in there, to give an opportunity to learn what we go through. Give them experiences that we went through because some people are oblivious, right wrong or indifferent. It’s been really powerful.”

According to Harmon, the reason the team has been able to have such discussions is Patricia setting the tone at the top and letting the players dictate the conversation and where it goes.

“(It starts) with the leadership of Matty P. We started phase 3 last week but with everything going on, how can you truly focus on football? I think he understood that and we were appreciative of that as a team,” Harmon said. “It’s been great conversations from top to bottom. We’ve been able to grow as a team. At the end of the day, this is a team sport and if you can truly commit to each other and love each other no matter your race, gender, anything, that’s how a team really creates a brotherhood and the wins will come off of that.”

Plenty of Lions have spoken out powerfully following a week of discussions and Patricia himself admitted the events have touched him deeply. That’s led to a situation where the team has come together in a very powerful way.

As Harmon said, what Patricia has done could only bring the team together tighter ahead of the 2020 season. Now that he allowed the team space to make this demonstration, that only might be more of the case.

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