Lions Still Clouded By The Unknown

ALLEN PARK - In what has possibly been one of the better kept secrets during his tenure, Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci didn't tip his hat Friday as to who would be his starting quarterback come Sunday in Cleveland.

The two nominees are current starter Joey Harrington and veteran Jeff Garcia. And both are just as clueless as the media and the fans.

When asked if he had made his decision following Friday's practice, Mariucci played keep-away, telling the media that he had to discuss it with the coaching staff.

"I am going to discuss that with my staff and athletic trainers later on today and start coming closer to a decision," he said, mentioning that he still might make the decision Sunday morning.

But chances are, the suggestion from the training staff might harbor the most importance. Garcia continues to experience soreness in his ankle after moving around in the pocket during drills, but the pain is manageable and has subsided drastically in the past week.

"That is one of the main things," Mariucci said. "As you know, after Wednesday's practice, which was the most activity he had in a long time, he felt good. He moved around okay. The next day he was sore, which was expected. Today he moved around even more.

"I wanted him to have an accumulative affect on his leg to see what kind of response he would have for this activity. After three practices, does it get progressively more sore or does it freshen back up? That is why we are working through this. He had a pretty good day today. Some of the soreness was out, it is not completely out - we know that. We are just going to have to think through it."

What Mariucci wants both quarterbacks thinking is that they'll start against the Browns. However, with talk show conjecture and even an unconfirmed, but flimsy ESPN television report that Garcia would start, anxiety is setting in.

"I always feel like I'm playing to keep a job," said Harrington on Friday. "But there was a little bit more anxiousness, unknown, and so there was a little different feel to it, but I always feel like I'm trying to keep a job."

Besides missing the final two games of 2002 due to heart arrhythmia, Harrington has started the last 34 games for the Lions since arriving in Detroit, when he replaced former quarterback Mike McMahon two weeks into the season.

Because of Harrington's large contract, and his status as a former No. 3 overall pick, Mariucci has discussed the quarterback situation with the Lions' front office brass, and received their consent to proceed as needed.

"We talk all the time," Mariucci said. "The discussions have gone: 'Do what you've got to do.' I discussed this certainly with Matt (Millen), Mr. Ford, everybody else. We talk a lot. We are all in this together.

"It is hard to make a decision, and it is an organizational decision. It falls under my responsibility."

Mariucci has also addressed the team about the quarterback situation, among many other positions that are under review.

Notes: Running back Kevin Jones has practiced the last two days and will play Sunday. Fullback Cory Scheslinger will not start, but will return to action for the first time since breaking his fibula in August. Tackle Jeff Backus (ankle) will likely start.

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