The question posed to the team leader after the Baltimore Colts tightened up tonight with a 17-7 exhibition victory over the Detroit Lions was, "Are you ready for the league opener next week in Kansas City?"

"You're damn right we're ready," Bert Jones said. "We're going from last to first place" in the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference.

The Colts finished with a 5-11 record in 1978 largely because Jones missed most of the season with a shoulder separation on his throwing arm.

He said there was no residual effect from that injury and demonstrated that once again he can squeeze off bullets.

He is down to a new low weight of 198.

"I purposely lost about 10 pounds to get back in playing condition this year after missing so much time last year," he said.

Jones played the first half, completing six of eight passes for 70 yards and flauted the notion that he might be gun-shy by running the ball three times.

Why did he bother to run?

"I slid each time, didn't I?" he said, as if to imply he was prudent.

He left just a smidgin of doubt with some observers about his arm because he did not throw any long passes. But in separate interviews he and Coach Ted Marchibroda noted the deep receivers have been nicked with injuries and it was not necessary to risk aggravation by having them try long patterns.

Jones faced up to a test on his first throw and passed it by unanimous consent of the crowd of 28,138 in Memorial Stadium by nearly knocking tight end Reese McCall off his feet with the force of a 10 yard snapper.

He came right back to McCall with a 16 yard streaker and the Colts had a first down on the Detroit 14 yard line.

On second and 10, Jones had to gun a third baseman's throw -- an east to west pass when wide receiver Randy Burke negotiated a crossing pattern and Jones had to lead him with the ball to enable Burke to shake his pursuer.

It was three-for-three for Jones and a touchdown and there was a double celebration in the end zone; for Jones because he showed he's back at the top of his effectiveness, and for Burke because he has been trying to justify for the third season not making it big as a No. 1 draft pick.