National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue concluded yesterday that three New England Patriots behaved improperly during "a serious incident of misconduct in the club's locker room" that occurred Sept. 17 while Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson was interviewing a fourth player.

In a letter to Patriots owner Victor Kiam, Tagliabue criticized the manner in which club officials handled the incident and "appeared to condone the misconduct of Patriots' players."

As a result, tight end Zeke Mowatt was fined $12,500, and wide receiver Michael Timpson and running back Robert Perryman, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys, each were fined $5,000.

The club was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay another $25,000 the league said would defray the cost of preparing materials to supplement those it uses to instruct players and other club personnel on "responsible dealings with the media."

Tagliabue's actions were based on a 60-page report by special counsel Philip Heymann, a professor at Harvard Law School whose investigative team interviewed 91 people in connection with the incident.

In his letter to Kiam, Tagliabue called the conduct of Mowatt, Timpson and Perryman "completely uncalled for and improper. Mowatt's conduct involved both verbal and demonstrative actions. Timpson and Perryman encouraged the misconduct, and contributed significantly to creating an atmosphere in which improper activity was evidently considered permissible."

As for the club's actions, Tagliabue wrote it "did not adequately supervise its players, did not adequately investigate and resolve a serious incident of misconduct in the club's locker room, and appeared to condone the misconduct of the Patriots' players."

It is the second time this season Tagliabue has meted out a penalty for an incident involving a female reporter. Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche was fined one-seventeenth of his salary Oct. 5 for barring USA Today's Denise Tom from the locker room following an Oct. 1 game. Wyche reportedly makes $500,000 per 17-week season, so he had to pay about $29,500.

Kiam released a statement that said the Patriots "will certainly abide by" Tagliabue's decision.

"We regret that the incident occurred," the statement said. "The team and I had previously expressed our apologies and we repeat them once again. The decision has been rendered. Now it's time to get on with playing football."

However, Mowatt, whose account of the incident was called "not credible" by Heymann, continued to proclaim his innocence. And the agents for Timpson and Perryman said their clients would appeal the fines. Mowatt's agent, Robert Fraley, said, "if Tagliabue thinks this is over, he's mistaken."

"What can I do now?" Mowatt said. "They said I did it, and I didn't do anything except say {of Olson}, 'You're not writing. You're just looking.' That's all I did."

Timpson's agent, Brett Senior, said his client had "no involvement in it {the incident} whatsoever." Senior said he was upset with the manner in which Heymann conducted his investigation and that Tagliabue "would issue something that has defamatory implications regarding Michael without giving him a chance to refute the allegations that have been made."

Perryman's agent, Robert Fayne, said his client "seems to think that he didn't do anything wrong. He certainly shouldn't pay a fine."

Several days after the incident became public, Perryman told reporters: "I didn't see anything, but who knows -- I may have done something to her {Olson}."

Olson, who now covers Boston's professional basketball and hockey teams, and Boston Herald Sports Editor Bob Sales were pleased with Tagliabue's decision.

"I do feel really vindicated," Olson said. "I can't express how vindicated I feel."

Said Sales: "I think justice has been done. I hope the Patriots have learned from this. They could have spared Lisa and the players this ordeal had they done the right thing."

According to the report, Olson was interviewing cornerback Maurice Hurst, whose locker is close to the entry to the shower area. After cornerback Ronnie Lippett shouted for his teammates to cover their genitals because there was "a lady in the locker room," a number of players began joking about Olson's presence near the shower area. Then Mowatt, who was nude, approached Olson and made suggestive comments.

The report said Patriots media relations director Jim Oldham confirmed Mowatt's role and he recognized Timpson's shouting.