Damon Harrison spent the first part of his Jets career in terror.
He was an undrafted rookie, a “camp body” as he described it, and he was afraid that at any moment his NFL career could end.
“Every day I feared walking into the locker room or walking into the building and having a guy ask me for my playbook,” he said. “For the better part of a year that fear sat with me and it forced me to work hard each and every day, on the field as well as off the field.”
Now that he is a Giant, he can probably relax a bit. The team signed him to a five-year, $46.25-million contract with $24 million guaranteed, part of a $200-million revamp of the defense on the first day of free agency on Wednesday. But Harrison said the contract will not make him comfortable, at least not on the football field.
“Trust me,” he said, “I don’t think I made it at all. I still have a lot to prove to myself.”
He even said he won’t be worrying about those gaudy contract numbers.
“I won’t allow myself to do it,” he said. “I won’t get caught up in the numbers or thinking about anything of that nature. I just have to go be the player that they brought me here to be.”
That player is a massive, run-clogging defensive tackle. The Giants viewed him as a key piece to their renovation. They offered him the huge contract. And, it helped that he is able to remain in pretty much the same place after four years with the Jets.
“The transition is going to be so easy,” he said. “If I wanted to I could stay exactly where I am . . . I could live in the house I’ve been living in for some time now. It’s so easy that it seems unreal that I can do exactly what I’ve been doing for the past four years without having to change anything, just come to another facility.”
Harrison will, in fact, move somewhat closer to the Giants’ facility in East Rutherford than the Jets’ place in Florham Park. But he termed that “crossing the street to the other side” as opposed to finding a new city to live in with his family, which includes a school-aged stepdaughter.
Of course, he could have just remained a Jet. That, he said, was a possibility until very recently.
“It was a decision that I made literally at the last minute,” he said of hitting the open market. “It could have went either way. I think I made the right choice, no disrespect to the Jets organization and the people there. It could have went either way.”
It’s unlikely the Jets would have come close to the size contract the Giants offered.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff from other people, but they have no clue on what was going on,” Harrison said.
In any case, he said his former teammates have been supportive.
“They’ve seen how far I’ve come and where I’ve been and where I am now and they all appreciate the journey that I’ve been on,” Harrison said. “They’re happy for me.”