I was watching the game on TV and I certainly didn't see where there was any contact on that play. We ask them (officials) not to put those whistles in their mouth unless they're going to use them. Obviously somebody goofed."

The voice you read was that of Nick Skorich, NFL assistant supervisor of officials, offering no relief to the zebra breed in its autimn of tribution-tion that already has found one umpire suspended for a botch during key game action.

Small comfort to the Bangals, who lost 20-14, to know the powers-that-be concur with their complaint that umpire John Keck blew one and probably cost them a touchdown. But Keck, who whistled the ball dead as Cincy safety Jerry Anderson started to run, clear field ahead, from this 29 after recovering a Rocky Bleier fumble, can't be feeling too comfortable either today . . .

Joe Btfsplk lives despite the retirement of Al Capp's Li'L Abner comic strip - the black-cloud guy has just changed his name to Ken Payne.

You remember Payne, he made the paper yesterday for racking up his car, head (cuts) and teeth (lost some) in a predown Tuesday bout with a tree in Green Bay, just after a hassle with the coaching staff that led to his release - and claim by the Eagles. Well, the sometimes brilliant wide receiver went on to Philadelphia later Tuesday, underwent a physical and was pronounced fit to play for his new team. But yesterday morning, he became ill and was rushed to a Philly hospital. Emergency appendectomy, probably out for the season.

Or is it the ever-luckess Eagles that Btfsplk tails? . . .