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COLLINS NO STRANGER TO FOXBORO STADIUM

Todd Collins will make the third start of his organized-football life in Foxboro Stadium when the Buffalo Bills face the New England Patriots Sunday.

The Bills' quarterback made his first two starts there when he was the signal-caller at Walpole (Mass.) High School. One was in a state championship game, during which Walpole upset powerhouse Brocton, 6-2, with a Collins touchdown pass. The other was a regular-season game that was moved because of too much snow on Walpole's field. Foxboro Stadium had artificial turf at the time, and the Patriots used a bulldozer to clean the surface for the high school game.

In exchange for the Patriots making a financial contribution to Walpole High's football program, Collins said he and other teammates and their parents would clean up Foxboro Stadium after Patriot games.

"Oh, man, that's nasty work," Collins said. "I don't even want to tell you what we cleaned out of there."

Collins has purchased about 25 tickets for the game for friends and family in New England. Asked if he sneaked into a Patriots' game, Collins cracked, "I can't disclose that information."

The Bills list four players as questionable for Sunday's game: wide receiver Steve Tasker (groin), running back Tim Tindale (knee), linebacker John Holecek (ankle), and offensive lineman Marcus Spriggs (back).

Nose tackle Ted Washington is listed as probable.

Defensive end Jim Jeffcoat will miss his second game with the injured knee on which he underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday.

Defensive end Bruce Smith did not appear on the injury list, but said he was still favoring his sore right knee.

Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest is listed as questionable with a sore knee. Injuries have kept him out of all but one of five games this season.

Cornerback Steve Israel (knee) is also listed as questionable, while tight end/long snapper Mike Bartrum (concussion) is probable.
Bills coach Marv Levy said Wednesday he had no new information on the status of his assistant head coach, Elijah Pitts, who underwent surgery last week for the removal of a tumor on his colon.

While Pitts is out, offensive coordinator Dan Henning and tight ends coach Don Lawrence are handling Pitts' duties.

Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe on Collins: "He's exhibiting some of the qualities it takes to become one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He's been able to take a beating and make some big plays at important times. And he's making good decisions. They're giving him a chance to work the ball downfield and showing a great deal of confidence in his ability, and he's responded to it well."

Levy called Wednesday night's Rolling Stones concert -- which forced the Bills out of Rich Stadium and onto their grass practice field -- a "minor distraction."

"It's good to have a minor distraction because you have to cope with minor distractions in order to win or accomplish anything," Levy said. "We'll deal with it this week and then they'll be gone."

How familiar is Levy with the Rolling Stones?

"The only thing I know about the rolling stones," he said, "is that they gather no moss."

Tindale was excused from Wednesday's practice in order to attend viewing hours for his father, Jock, 56, who died Monday in the player's hometown of London, Ont.

After practice, linebacker Chris Spielman, place-kicker Steve Christie and offensive guard Jerry Ostroski changed into suits and headed to London to be with their teammate.

The funeral is today.
Bills strong safety Henry Jones will help the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Western New York Chapter, in various capacities including sponsorship of the Defending Against Birth Defects Program.

For every tackle Jones makes this season, local companies will make a donation to the March of Dimes. He will also serve as the honorary chairman of Walk America, the organization's premier fund-raising event that will take place Apr. 25-26.

For the second year in a row, Bruce Smith is supporting the 1997 Fund Raising Drive for the City Mission of Buffalo. He will donate $500 for each quarterback sack he registers.

Through five games, Smith has 5 1/2 sacks, bringing the total to $2,750. Last year he donated $6,750 for his 13 1/2 sacks.

The City Mission is a non-profit Christian facility that provides food, shelter and clothing for poor and homeless people. Those interested in joining Smith in pledging money to the fund for each of his sacks can contact Debbie Acquisto at Buffalo City Mission at 854-8181.

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