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Fontes and Mora Both Want to Keep Veterans Healthy

August 2, 1996

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ It is a score that continues to stick in Wayne Fontes’ craw: Philadelphia 58, Detroit 37.

With that, the Eagles knocked the high-powered Lions out of the NFL playoffs in the first round last season. All the coaching Fontes had done to rally his club from a 2-5 start were wasted. Down in flames, along with the seven-game winning streak that concluded the regular season.

Detroit had one of the most explosive offensive units in the NFL. But the Lions had a woeful defense.

Fontes is out to fix that, if he can. So it is the defense that will get most of his attention tonight when the Lions play host to the New Orleans Saints in an exhibition game at the Silverdome.

``I want to see how well our defense can stop their offense,″ Fontes said. ``I thought in our scrimmage (last Saturday) that the offense moved the ball well without our top players. Now, I’m wondering if our offense is really that far ahead, or if the defense is that far behind.″

It will be the second of five exhibition games for the Saints. They were defeated 10-3 by the Colts last week in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio.

``I thought our defense, with the exception of a handful of plays, played very, very well,″ Saints coach Jim Mora said. ``We didn’t make a lot of mistakes.″

That was the good news. The bad news was that 14 players on the Saints roster were unable to play in the Hall of Fame game because of injuries. And things weren’t looking any better when defensive tackle Buster Stanley sprained a foot and cornerback Tyrone Hughes picked up a bruised knee and calf. Both missed practice time this week.

``Well, it might benefit some of our young players who need the work,″ Mora said. ``Hopefully, some guys who are new to our team and have missed a chance early will get a chance to play this week.″

Both coaches said they were concerned with injuries.

``I’m concerned with the amount of nagging injuries we’ve had,″ Fontes said. ``We haven’t had any serious injuries. They’re mostly nagging things. But guys are missing some key practice time and I think that has hindered us a little bit.″

The fear of injuries will prompt Fontes to use his bread and butter players as little as possible.

In the past, Fontes has only used running back Barry Sanders for one or two plays in the first exhibition game. Then he sits down. Sanders doesn’t need the practice.

It is likely that quarterback Scott Mitchell will play no more than a quarter. That is another body Fontes cannot risk losing.

``I’ve been impressed with Mitchell,″ Fontes said. ``He is way ahead of where he was last year at this time. And he’s taken more of a leadership role, which is a tremendous plus.″

Fontes also is expected to hold receivers Herman Moore and Brett Perriman out of the exhibition with the Saints.

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