The emergence of Andre Ware is taking a backseat this week to the
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The emergence of Andre Ware is taking a backseat this week to the return of Joe Montana.
That doesn’t bother Ware, finally getting his chance to play after spending most of his three seasons on the bench for the Detroit Lions.
He’ll make his third straight start - and just the fourth of his career - in Monday night’s regular-season closer between the Lions (5-10) and the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers (13-2).
The game also will mark Montana’s first appearance in nearly two years. Montana, a 10-year starter for San Francisco who has missed virtually all of the past two seasons with a torn right elbow tendon, is expected to play two quarters in relief of starter Steve Young.
″I’m kind of the background guy, and that’s how I choose to handle things,″ Ware said. ″I would much rather Joe get the credit.
″He’s worked hard to get back. It doesn’t matter to me one way or another whether I’m mentioned in the story or not. My job is to help my football team win, and I’ll do that to the best of my ability.″
The 49ers, though already assured of a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, hope to finish strongly and are eager to help make Montana’s return a success.
″The world is going to be watching Monday night, and I’m sure they are excited about seeing Joe on the football field,″ 49ers receiver Jerry Rice said. ″I think it’s good for the morale of the team.
″The guy has fought his way back and I think it’s only right that he get the chance to show that he can still play.″
San Francisco coach George Seifert said Montana’s performance would be evaluated to determine whether he or Steve Bono should be the team’s No. 2 quarterback heading into the playoffs.
Detroit comes into the finale having won both of its past two games under Ware, who has thrown for 428 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in victories over Chicago and Cleveland.
″I think they are coming on,″ Seifert said of the Lions. ″Andre Ware is starting to enjoy himself and display the abilities everybody kind of thought he had.
″Barry Sanders is quite talent and Herman Moore, the wide receiver, is dynamite. They have some very, very talented players.″
Detroit coach Wayne Fontes said it’s too soon to tell if Ware, the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner and the club’s top draft choice in 1990, is the Lions’ quarterback of the future.
″Rodney Peete has tremendous skills and so does Erik Kramer,″ Fontes said. ″We have three quarterbacks and they’re all about the same now.
″The thing we have to do is get one of these guys to really come out of the pack.″
Ware, who got just one start as a rookie and none last season, said he feels he’s getting his first real chance to show what he can do.
″I started a game my rookie year and was pulled by halftime,″ he said. ″A lot of guys would have still been playing.
″All you want is an opportunity on a fair level with the other guys. Up until this point, myself, I don’t feel that has happened here.
″But the past two weeks have been successful for us. The guys around me have responded and played well.″
The 49ers, who have won their past seven games, are seeking their 10th win in 11 Monday night games under Seifert. Detroit is 7-8-1 on Monday night and the victories include a 17-13 win over the 49ers on Oct. 14, 1974.
San Francisco, which leads the NFL with a 61-18 record over the past five seasons, has won its last two encounters with Detroit to lead the series 26-25-1.