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Ex-Lions Coach Denied Compensation

September 1, 1999

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Former Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes has been denied worker disability compensation for injuries he traced to being knocked down on the sidelines during a game, according to a published report today.

In a decision to be released today, a magistrate said he didn’t believe the coach or his witnesses, The Oakland Press reported.

In a copy of the decision obtained by the newspaper, magistrate John Hurbis wrote, ``Fontes has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a disability, which arose out of, and in the course of, his employment with the Detroit Lions.″

The Oakland Press obtained Hurbis’ decision late Tuesday and could not reach Fontes, who now lives in Tarpon Springs, Fla., his attorneys or the Detroit Lions for comment.

Fontes, fired following the 1996 season by team owner William Clay Ford, filed a claim for disability benefits last year, saying he has been unable to resume coaching.

Fontes, 60, said he was hurt first during a game in 1989 and again Nov. 12, 1995, during a game against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While he was talking to his defensive squad on the sidelines, the Lions’ offense turned the ball over, and the defense rushed onto the field, he said. Two players hit his shoulders, and a third knocked him to the ground, he said.

He got up, and continued coaching, but was hurting badly by the time he got home, Fontes testified in June at his workers’ compensation claim hearing against the Lions.

But Hurbis’ decision at times rips at Fontes’ claims that he was injured while employed by the Lions and that those injuries are serious enough to prevent him from working again.

``This court finds as less than candid the testimony of the plaintiff and his witnesses,″ Hurbis wrote.

Twice in the decision, Hurbis questioned how Fontes can continue playing golf despite his alleged suffering, the paper reported.

At his June hearing, Fontes acknowledged that he swims and continues to play golf despite the injury.

``I’m not dead. I’m not dead by a long shot,″ Fontes said. ``I can play golf, I can swim, if I hurt, I walk off the course.″

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