The Lions traded for Duron Harmon at the start of free agency, and the veteran safety and former Patriot will be reuniting with a familiar face in Detroit.
Harmon entered the NFL in 2013 as a third-round pick of the New England Patriots. When he arrived in New England, he played behind current Detroit Lions defensive backs coach Steve Gregory.
"He was very big just in my development and being a professional," Harmon said in a recent conference call when asked about those early days playing alongside his new position coach. "Gregory was like the one who really took me under his wings when I first got there as a young pup."
That rookie season in New England for Harmon was Gregory's last as an NFL player after an eight-year career that saw him play in 111 games with 54 starts.
"He taught me how to watch film," Harmon said of Gregory. "He taught me how to break up the days in watching film, what to watch for.
"I think just remembering the time we had together and him playing, I think he was like 190 pounds and we had him playing strong safety and he was just tough. I remember guys coming in there 230 pounds trying to crack him and he's literally lighting cats up, going in there and making a play and getting up. I just remember sitting behind him and realizing like, 'That's how I want to play.' I want to be tough like that. I want to be able to be physical."
Harmon's become a rangy and physical free safety for the Patriots over the last seven years. He's recorded 10 interceptions in the last three years alone, playing mostly as New England's third safety behind Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.
In Detroit, Harmon gets to reunite with Gregory, who was promoted to the defensive backs coach this offseason after joining the staff as a defensive assistant in 2018. Harmon also jumps into a similar scheme like he played in New England. Those two factors should help him hit the ground running, whenever on-field football activities begin.
"Steve Gregory, I think, was in his seventh or eighth year (when I was a rookie) and he was able to show me what you have to do on and off the field to be able to play as long as he did," Harmon said. "I'm excited to get back with him because, I mean, he was probably the smartest safety I played with. I mean, him and Dev (current Patriots safety Devin McCourty) are neck and neck.
"(Gregory) could dissect a defense. You knew he had a calling to coach because of how he explained the defense to me and how easy he made it sound."
Harmon said there were times that year where his head would be spinning a bit, but Gregory was always there to slow things down and help him understand. Harmon has everlasting respect for Gregory for how he helped get his career started, and is looking forward to continuing to build that relationship here in Detroit.