"I left the decision up to Charlie, and he told me that he wouldn't be able to play," Ross said. "He just didn't think his knee was strong enough. I'll support that decision fully."
Batch broke a bone in his right knee on June 5, and missed all of training camp and the preseason. As late as Monday, he felt that he would be able to play if he got medical clearance, but changed his mind as the week went on.
"When I said that on Monday, I was expecting things to keep getting better as the week progressed," he said. "But that never happened. Things just stayed exactly the same. The bone itself is fine, but the muscle still isn't ready."
There was talk that Batch was leery about playing and reinjuring the leg in a way that could cause a snag in his ongoing contract talks. He denied that entered his thought process.
"The contract situation had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to play," Batch said. "We were hoping to get the contract done before the season started, and we still have a couple days where something might happen. But signing the contract wouldn't change the fact that I can't play."
Ross said he hadn't made a decision on whether Batch or Cory Sauter would serve as Case's backup, but Batch seemed to think it was a simple matter.
"If I could play, I'd be starting," he said. "It doesn't make sense to say that I can't play in the first quarter, but I could play in the fourth."
For Case, the assignment caps a wild summer. After Baltimore decided to sign Trent Dilfer instead of bringing him back, Case was afraid he wouldn't have a job at all. Instead, Batch's injury led the Lions to sign him for depth, and Mike Tomczak's broken leg moved him into the No. 2 spot.
"I was starting to wonder if I was going to get into anyone's camp, or if I would be spending Labor Day weekend at the lake, waiting for the phone to ring," Case said. "Now, after a lot of strange things, I'm going to be starting. I just want to stay calm and make plays when I get a chance."
Case has started five games in his NFL career, four last year when he replace former Lion Scott Mitchell in Baltimore. He later lost that job to Tony Banks, and was let go after the season. But he impressed Ross during the exhibition season, especially after Tomczak's injury.
"I think of all the quarterbacks in the league that threw 50 passes in the preseason, Stoney ranked third," Ross said. "He's been very impressive, and we are very comfortable with him. I'm disappointed for Charlie, but this isn't a setback, not as well as Stoney has played."
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed