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Lions hire veteran personnel evaluator Harris to assist Mayhew

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Martin Mayhew had heard the talk about his lack of experience.

That's why the Detroit Lions general manager went after an assistant who had plenty of it.

Mayhew announced Thursday that he had hired longtime executive James "Shack" Harris to serve as his top assistant. Harris left the Jaguars in December after six years as their top personnel executive.

"Shack is going to be a sounding board for me, and really kind of a mentor," Mayhew said. "A lot has been made about the experience factor, but this is a guy with over 20 years in NFL front offices. There were a lot of yes-men out there. We didn't hire any of them."

Harris didn't want to discuss the details of his departure from the Jaguars, other than to acknowledge that 2008 hadn't gone the way the organization had planned. After an 11-5 season in 2007, the team went 5-11 and only won one game by more than a touchdown -- a 38-14 rout of the Lions.

"Last August, we were considered a top Super Bowl contender, but the season just collapsed on us," Harris said. "I had some good years there, but now I've put that behind us."

The 61-year-old has also had scouting and personnel jobs with Tampa Bay, the New York Jets and Baltimore, winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000.

"James was always our No. 1 choice, because he's built the kind of physical, dominating teams that we want to have here in Detroit," Mayhew said. "He was in the running for the GM job in Cleveland, so we had to wait for that process to finish, and we've been working on a contract since the Super Bowl."

Harris' six-year tenure as the director of pro personnel in Baltimore overlapped with new Detroit coach Jim Schwartz's three seasons as a defensive assistant with the Ravens.

"When I first got to Baltimore, Schwartzie was the kind of young, smart, hardworking person that you know is going to succeed in this league," he said. "The last few years, we've played Tennessee twice a year, so I know he builds the same kind of hard-nosed teams that we had in Jacksonville."

Notes: Harris played for the Bills, Rams and Chargers between 1969-81, and was the MVP of the 1975 Pro Bowl. ... Mayhew said that the Lions would put their franchise tag on K Jason Hanson if they don't reach a contract agreement by next week's deadline, but that he expected a deal to be made. Mayhew also said the team has been in contact with both Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna, but that no decision has been made on next year's quarterback situation.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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