Lions’ Charles Harris Issues Warning to NFL: ‘I Feel Like I’m at the Bottom’

Charles Harris

Getty Detroit Lions defensive end Charles Harris told The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett that he's better now than he was when he recorded 7.5 sacks in 2021.

The Detroit Lions have been rumored to be a potential destination for one of the top remaining defensive ends in NFL free agency. Detroit has also been named the betting favorite to land for Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young.

But it’s possible the Lions already have the solution to their questions at defensive end in veteran Charles Harris.

Harris implied he is that solution when he issued a warning of sorts to the rest of the NFL through the media. While talking to The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett, Harris said he feels “like I’m really better” than even when he recorded 7.5 sacks in 2021.

The 28-year-old is also only motivated to keep getting better.

“I don’t look at myself as high up on the food chain or nothing like that. I feel like I’m at the bottom,” Harris told Birkett. “That’s the thing about it. I remember A.G. (Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) kind of said, he told us a couple years ago, whatever happened last year was last year, nobody remembers that kind of stuff.

“So that’s the same way I think about it. I see the highlights of the film, it doesn’t matter to me, and I’m trying to put new stuff out there.”

Harris had plenty of highlights during 2021 when he registered career highs across the board — 65 combined tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits and 7.5 sacks.

Last season, he had 2 tackles for loss, 4 quarterback hits and 1 sack in six games.

Harris Preparing for Another Big Season?

The Lions won eight of their final 10 games last season in large part because of their top 5 offense. Detroit finished in the top 5 in points and yards during 2022 for the first time since 2011.

But the defense also found something during the second half of the season. Rookie and No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson led the Lions with 9.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Hutchinson posted 5 of those sacks and 6 of the tackles for loss in the final nine games.

Fellow rookie James Houston also came on strong. He recorded 8 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in the team’s final seven contests.

Together, Hutchinson and Houston combined to record 19.5 of Detroit’s 39 sacks in 2022. To have a better overall defensive unit, though, the Lions need another pass rusher to emerge with those two second-year players.

Defensive end John Cominsky was third on the team with just 4 sacks in 2022.

If Harris plays like he did in 2021, he will be that third guy. The 28-year-old implied that he’s more comfortable in Detroit’s defensive system and better than he’s ever been in his career.

“Pass rush standpoint, I think mentally I’m just a lot smarter, a lot sharper as a football player,” Harris told Birkett. “You’re in the same system for the most part, you just know your plays better. Know your plays, know tendencies.

“And the physical part, that’s all going to come along. The hands, the footwork, the pass rush technique, the run technique, all that kind of stuff. That’s going to come with just reps and doing it over and over in camp.”

Harris Aiming to Bounce Back from Groin Injury

Harris started the first four games of 2022 before suffering a groin injury in practice heading into Week 5. The injury lingered the rest of the season, as Harris played in just two more games.

The Lions placed Harris on injured reserve heading into Week 13. Ironically, that gave Houston his first opportunity to play in the regular season.

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox argued that the Lions should consider trading Harris this summer in order to open up $3.1 million in cap space.

But based on what Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Harris, the 28-year-old will be much more valuable to the Lions as a pass rusher than a trade piece.

Charles has picked up where he left off from before the injury,” Campbell said. “I’ll tell the story every year, but came in two years ago and gave him an opportunity, basically playing for minimum and earn the right, earn his right to be out there and he did that.

“And worked his way right up the depth chart and he’s playing for us, he’s productive. Works out on both sides.”

Campbell also hammered home the idea that Harris looks like his 2021-self but is also not taking that fact for granted.

“He has an injury. Well, he doesn’t miss a beat,” Campbell said. “He’s back at it, he’s working and to him it’s like, ‘I’m at the bottom again. I’m on my way back up.’ That’s his approach.”

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