A back injury from a sideline collision with some of his players made it impossible for Wayne Fontes to be the coach he was accustomed to being, he said yesterday. The former Lions coach testified on the second day of a trial of his workers' compensation claim against the Lions. Owner William Clay Ford fired him at the end of the 1996 season. Fontes filed a claim for disability benefits last year, saying he has been unable to resume coaching.

"I felt like I wasn't doing the kind of job that I was paid to do," Fontes said.

Fontes said he was hurt first when he was knocked down during a game in 1989 and again November 12, 1995, during a game against the visiting Buccaneers.

He got up, and continued coaching, but was hurting badly by the time he got home, Fontes testified.

"The next day, it was worse," he said. "I went to see the trainer."

A leg fracture healed, but a back injury did not, despite physical therapy and treatment by a chiropractor and a neurologist. He began wearing a back brace, he said.

Under cross-examination from attorney Robert Humphrey, who represents the Lions and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Fontes denied that the real source of his injury was a February 1990 car accident in which a speeding car hit his vehicle.

GIANT INJURED: Giants RB Gary Brown is in fair condition in a Pennsylvania hospital after a weekend motorcycle accident in Williamsport, Pa. Brown suffered a concussion but is expected to be ready for training camp next month.