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O'HARA: Back from injury, Harris ready to hit the field running

For the second time in three years, Charles Harris finds himself in a prove-it season with the Detroit Lions.

The circumstances are different this year than in 2021, when he signed with the Lions as a free agent as a four-year veteran.

After producing only 6.5 sacks in his first four seasons, he felt pressure playing on a one-year contract with the Lions to produce.

Harris came through, playing all 17 games with 14 starts and producing 7.5 sacks as a combination defensive end/outside linebacker.

The Lions re-signed Harris to a multi-year contract, expecting similar results in his second season with the Lions as GM Brad Holmes and head Coach Dan Campbell added talent to the roster.

Unfortunately, Harris sustained a severe groin injury early in the season. Harris was limited to six games with four starts. He played only 261 defensive snaps, compared to 872 in 2021.

Harris is back this year for a third season with the Lions, with a solid position as the starting SAM linebacker – and another "prove-it" year that he welcomes.

"It's great to be back," Harris said. "It's great to be back playing – being out with the guys. It sucks whenever you have a season-ending injury. For anybody, it's always tough, but just staying mentally strong.

"That mentality carried over to this year. I'm ready to hit the field running."

The Lions have versatility and depth up front on the defensive line and at linebacker. Some of that comes from the additions of last season's 2022 draft class – Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Paschal and James Houston – and also from the veterans such as Harris.

With a strong rotation, the Lions should be able to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks along with stopping the run.

"You don't want any drop off on defense, just the same as offense," Harris said. "It's always great to have players who are legit starters in their own right.

"I think our ones, twos and threes can be legitimate starters across the league. We like to say on defense we're very versatile. We got a lot of different weapons.

"I can't wait to get it rolling this year."

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