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Fontes Can Sympathize With Turner’s QB Quandary

August 8, 1996

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ Last week it was Heath Shuler. This week it appears to be Gus Frerotte. The Washington Redskins just can’t seem to settle on a quarterback.

Frerotte is slated to start Friday night’s exhibition game against the Detroit Lions. Shuler started last week’s game at Buffalo.

Washington coach Norv Turner knows that someday he is going to have to decide. Shuler or Frerotte. For now, however, he can buy a little time. The games don’t count until Sept. 1, when the Redskins open the 1996 NFL season against the Philadelphia Eagles.

``I think they are both making the progress that we’d like to see,″ Turner said.

Lions coach Wayne Fontes knows that scenario all too well. At one time, Fontes had three quarterbacks vying for playing time.

Fontes finally got tired of trying to choose between Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer and Andre Ware. He shipped them all out and signed free agent Scott Mitchell away from the Miami Dolphins.

``I don’t even want to think about all that,″ Fontes said. ``When you’ve got more than one quarterback, you have to say you like the competition. But, in your heart, you know most clubs do better when they know who the guy is.″

Shuler and Frerotte both played in the Redskins’ 17-7 victory over the Bills. Each directed a touchdown drive. Shuler completed 21 of 15 passes for 122 yards. Frerotte was 9-of-12 for 87 yards. Neither threw an interception.

``The quarterbacks were awfully good,″ Turner said. ``The thing I liked best about them was they didn’t have the major negative play.″

In general, Turner has liked a lot of what he has seen in training camp. Despite a lot of rain in Frostburg, Md., site of their camp, the Redskins appear to have made major strides in two full seasons under Turner.

The Redskins looked good in workouts with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dolphins before the exhibition game at Buffalo.

``Our offensive line has been physical,″ Turner said. ``I see that as a good sign.″

The Lions, as they did so often in 1995, rolled up nice offensive numbers in their exhibition opener with New Orleans. Still, some things didn’t change.

The offense and special teams were weak and the Saints pulled out a 23-22 victory with two touchdowns in the final 1:54.

``This game with the Redskins is a very important game,″ Fontes said. ``I feel that most teams will improve tremendously from Game 1 to Game 2. We made a lot of errors in the first game. This is our second game, and we should be improved.″

Fontes played Mitchell for on the first quarter against the Saints. That’s probably all the work he’ll give his starter this week, as well. Why risk injury?

Don Majkowski, who will be Mitchell’s backup when the season starts, is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. That means Fontes can take an extra long look at rookie Johnny Johnson and Rick Strom. Both got plenty of playing time last week.

Johnson, an undrafted free agent from Illinois, lobbed a 33-yard TD pass to rookie Miles Macik on the final play of the game. That, plus the fact that Lions’ quarterback coach Greg Landry was the offensive coordinator for part of Johnson’s time at Illinois, means he has a shot at landing the No. 3 job in Detroit.

``He tends to have happy feet, but can sure throw the ball,″ Fontes said. ``We’ll just see what happens.″

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