The Dallas Cowboys and three other clubs are a blink and a beep up on the rest of the National Football League in the predraft testing of college players because they thought to ask permission in January to use a newfangled device.

The Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles formally complained to the NFL that the device gave the Cowboys an unfair advantage, but NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle ruled against them.

A member of the Eagles described the Cowboy test as "a reaction-timer test in which a device measures hand and foot responses to visual and auditory stimuli.

"A light would come on and the device would measure how fast the player would turn it off by a hand or a pedal," he said, "or to turn off a beep.

"Dallas was doing this unbeknownst to the rest of the league. We did not know about it until the league meeting (in April). It was unfair; we would have liked to have the same opportunity."

Another Eagle source said of the complaint being disallowed: "The Dallas dispensation works again."

Don Weiss, executive director of the NFL, said, "The Cowboys contacted this office and told the personnel department what they planned to do and were told to go ahead. That was in late January.

"The Cowboys and other teams in their scouting combine -- Seattle, Buffalo and San Francisco -- planned to have pool physical examinations of a lot of top draft-eligibles. The other three clubs sent medical staff to Dallas. The reaction tests were given then."

Weiss was asked why other clubs in the NFL weren't notified of the right to use the reaction tests.

"Because they didn't ask," Weiss said.

He was asked if clubs other than the Redskins and Eagles had complained about the reaction tests or whether the Cowboys had made any coutercharges. He replied, "No."

Weiss acknowledged that there were other "allegations. For instance, there were accusations that a receiver was timed while playing catch with a quaterback. If a player is timed or throws passes or is worked out at a club site, that is a violation.

"A player may be timed or worked out only on his college campus or at his residence. We were told that some athletes were given Cybex tests by other than doctors at Dallas. Cybex tests have been approved for two years. It is a strength-testing machine for the legs, to measure rehabilitation from knee surgery.

"These complaints involve gray areas in very difficult cases to rule on. There are many questions. We asked the clubs (Dallas and the others) to respond and the commissioner determined no action against them was justified. The matter will be on the competition committee's agenda for an airing before the next league meeting."

He said the Redskins and Eagles formally complained between the time of the league meeting in early April and the draft April 29-30.

Another source played down the controversy, observing, "If the league legalizes card tricks in the teams' playbooks, the Cowboys might now have an edge because of their quick hands."