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NFL: Saints deny ESPN report alleging eavesdropping
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The New Orleans Saints denied an anonymously sourced ESPN report on Monday which alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis' booth in the Superdome was wired so he could listen to opposing coaches' radio communications during games.

ESPN could not determine if the system was ever used. The report on Monday's "Outside the Lines" said Loomis would have been able to eavesdrop on opponents from 2002 to 2004. The report also said the system was disabled in 2005, when the Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel called the report "1,000 percent false."

"We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused," Bensel said. "The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations."

If the Saints had installed a system allowing them to listen in on their opponents it would have violated NFL rules and also could have infringed on federal wire-tapping laws.

"We were not aware of it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We have no knowledge of the allegations."

FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said the agency's New Orleans office was aware of the situation, but wouldn't comment further.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in New Orleans also said his office had been told about "general allegations" involving the Saints and possible wiretapping, but he did not elaborate. Letten declined to discuss who made the allegations, and whether they involved Loomis or any other Saints officials.

For the Saints, the report in itself added to a slew of recent bad publicity, which began in early March when the NFL released a report describing a crunch-for-cash bounty system that provided improper cash bonuses to defensive players who delivered hits that hobbled targeted opponents.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season in connection with the bounty probe. Loomis, who did not comment directly on the latest report, was suspended for the first half of the regular season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended six games.

The team also lost its second-round pick in this week's NFL draft and was fined $500,000. Goodell took away the Saints' second-round pick in 2013 as well, but has said he may lessen that punishment if he is satisfied with the club's cooperation in the ongoing investigation.

The NFL still has yet to hand down punishment to between 22 and 27 current and former Saints defensive players whom the league has said participated in the bounty program.

Rosters expanded

The NFL has expanded rosters for the offseason and preseason to 90 players. Previously, the limit was 80, but the league's Management Council voted to increase it Monday. The first cutdown, in late August, will be to 75, with the final cut after the last of four preseason games bringing rosters to 53.

The 90 players will include all active, inactive, practice squad, exempt and reserve list players, plus unsigned draft choices and franchise-tagged free agents.

Kehl joins Redskins

Free-agent linebacker Bryan Kehl has signed with the Washington Redskins after spending the last two seasons with the St. Louis Rams. The 6-foot-2, 244-pound Kehl has played in 59 NFL games, including five starts, for the Rams and the New York Giants. He has made 58 tackles, one interception, one sack and two fumble recoveries.

Kehl was a fourth-round draft pick in 2008 out of BYU.

Around the league

Broncos • Veteran safety Brian Dawkins is retiring from the NFL after 16 seasons. Dawkins spent his first 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and his last three with the Denver Broncos. He suffered a serious neck injury in December that sidelined him for the stretch run and the Broncos' two playoff games.

Packers • Green Bay released veteran Chad Clifton, who has been the Packers' primary left tackle since 2000, starting 160 games over 12 seasons with quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He started only six games last season because of hamstring and back injuries.

It was not immediately clear whether Clifton will retire or try to play for another team.

Bears • Chicago signed guard Chilo Rachal (CHEY'-lo RAY'-shell) to a one-year contract. The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Rachal started 38 games over the past four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, who selected him in the second round out of Southern California in 2008.

NFL notes • New Orleans vows to take "all legal recourse" over wire-tapping claim.
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