PONTIAC, MICH., DEC. 3 -- Detroit Lions Coach Wayne Fontes, citing a sideline altercation during Sunday's 23-17 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears, today kicked linebacker Jimmy Williams off the team.

Williams, the Lions' No. 1 draft pick out of Nebraska in 1982 and a graduate of Wilson High School in Washington, was told of his release following a morning practice at the Pontiac Silverdome.

"It was something that had to be done," Fontes said. "Discipline and attitude is what we're trying to get across here. He's been a very good player here -- a fine player. But I don't want anybody here to put themselves ahead of this team."

Fontes said he didn't see or hear the altercation because he was watching the action on the field. He said he learned about the incident on the flight back from Chicago, and told Williams during the flight they would talk early today.

Fontes wouldn't be more specific, but the incident is believed to have taken place in the second quarter shortly after a 10-yard roughing penalty against Williams gave the Bears first down at the Lions 11-yard line. The Bears scored four plays later to take a 14-10 lead.

Williams apparently had heated words with assistant coaches and teammates when he came off the field.

"Had I known, I would have taken him out right then," Fontes said. "I have a saying: 'The inmates should never run the asylum.' "

Williams was the Lions' fifth-leading tackler with 60 -- 49 solo and 11 assists. He had three sacks and four pass deflections.

"I thought he was playing well," Fontes said. "We had a difference of opinion, let's put it that way. We had a very good talk this morning, man to man. He respects where I stand. I wish him well. I'm sure he'll be picked up by some other team."

It's the second time this season Fontes has fired a player without warning. He also released defensive end Kevin Brooks, who had been a 1985 No. 1 draft pick by the Cowboys. Brooks started 15 games after signing as a free agent with the Lions in 1989 and started four of the six games this season before his release on Nov. 2.

"Obviously there are some extenuating reasons for this decision," Fontes said. "From day one, I have maintained that no player is bigger than the team. If I ever place a player above the team or allow a player to put himself above the team, then I'll quit."