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SPIELMAN WANTS VICTORY, NOT VINDICATION

Chris Spielman is not into reunions, unless they are family-related. Although the Detroit Lions, his former team, are coming to town Sunday, the Buffalo Bills linebacker insists the game will not have any special meaning.

"This game is special because every game is special to me," Spielman said. "As far as I'm concerned, the Detroit Lions are just another team on our schedule."

Spielman, who led the Lions in tackles a club-record eight straight seasons, might have felt differently had this game taken place last year.

He left Detroit as an unrestricted free agent following the 1995 season and signed a contract with the Bills.

"I thought there were some people there who could have stepped up and kind of gone to bat for me, but didn't do it," Spielman said. "Other than that, I was very happy with the opportunity I had there. I represented them well and I'm grateful to the Ford family for giving me an opportunity to play there."

Spielman's emotions are in check, at least for now. All of his energy is directed toward preparing for Sunday's game.

The Bills face a Lions team with a lot of offensive weapons, but none more dangerous than Barry Sanders. After a slow start, the All-Pro running back has three consecutive 100-yard games and ranks third in the NFC in rushing yardage (466) and second in total yards from scrimmage (634).

In last week's upset win over the Green Bay Packers, Sanders showed his toughness as he gained 139 yards while playing most of the game with a broken nose.

"I've seen him do that for eight years," Spielman said. "It's more impressive on film because you get to run it back over and over. I find myself having to quit cheering for him, too, when I'm watching the films. I sit there and say, 'Go Barry -- what are you thinking -- fall Barry.' "

Spielman is looking forward to playing against a back he considers the best in the NFL. He didn't get a chance to hit Sanders in practice, although he committed that unpardonable sin once in training camp four years ago.

"You always want to play against the best," Spielman said. "If you're one-on-one with him and you're out in space, you've got to take a shot. If you break down on him and you're in the open field, he's going to make you miss. If you've got him in space, that's when you've got to kind of surround him and wait for your reinforcements.

"I've never seen anything like him. One minute he's here, the next second he's there. He's going to get some runs here or there, but if we can contain him the way we think we can, we'll be in the ball game."

Whether he's talking about opponents or playing against them, the look in Spielman's eyes never changes. No one is more intense and his commitment to the game is legendary.

He arrived at the special teams meeting Wednesday morning 20 minutes before anyone else. He is the fourth-string fullback on the punt-coverage team.

"He was in yesterday (Tuesday), his day off, studying film," coach Marv Levy said. "But that is typical of Chris."

Even Bobby Ross, the Lions' first-year head coach, has heard stories, too.

"I just had a guy walk in my office just the other day and say, 'You know, Chris is the kind of guy who is going to be in that film room at 7 in the morning. It doesn't matter who (the opponent) is, he's going to be to be studying everything,' " Ross said. "This organization has great respect for Chris Spielman. He's a true professional who prepares."

If the Bills win Sunday, Spielman said he won't feel any vindication.

"I'm not worried about that stuff," he said. "I just want to compete and win. That's all I care about."

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