There may be no more audible audibles in the National Football League.
The signals a quarterback used to yell may become little more than a whisper in a receiver's ear if the NFL's competition committee's proposal for "helmet radios" is approved this week at the league's annual winter meetings.
If the owners, coaches and other team officials go along, the quarterbacks and receivers of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will wear transmitters and receivers inside their helmets as an experiment during 1985 preseason games.
If there are no hitches, every player in the league will have the tiny "radio" attached to a piece of velcro inside his helmet for the 1986 season, competition committee chairman Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys said today.
The reason for the wireless communication, which can be turned on and off and works up to 60 yards away, is simple enough. Many in the NFL have grown tired of watching games delayed by crowd noise when receivers had trouble hearing the quarterback's signals. The transmitters and receivers eliminate that problem.
"The crowds now know they can be a factor in the game," said committee member Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins. "It's mushroomed around the league. This plan enables the quarterback to call the plays without any trouble."
The Seahawks were chosen for the experiment because they play in what may be the noisiest stadium in the NFL, the Kingdome. The 49ers were picked because they play the Seahawks in the final preseason game.
The competition committee's 66-page report was discussed today and will be voted on Wednesday afternoon. Other proposals include an experimental instant replay for controversial calls in the preseason, which is favored by Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs.
Schramm said the league is investigating ways to shorten games, now an average of 3 hours 9 minutes, by "hurrying up the mechanics of the officials without touching the game."
He said 10 minutes could be cut from each game that way.
The NFL will begin a "detailed time study," Schramm said, to learn exactly how long it takes for such things as putting the ball in play from out of bounds.
In another matter, the league announced today that Tom Benson, a Chevrolet dealer in New Orleans, and 24 partners have signed a contract to buy the New Orleans Saints today from John Mecom for $64 million.
The announcement was made in Benson's automobile showroom. It will take the league several weeks to investigate Benson, who would have 31 percent ownership, before it approves the sale, Commissioner Pete Rozelle said.
Benson, at a news conference with Gov. Edwin Edwards, said the sale was contingent on four things -- a new 40-year lease at the Superdome, approval by the National Football League, a virtual donation of state land across Lake Pontchartrain for a training facility, and removal of taxes on all Superdome events.
He and the governor said there appeared to be no problems with getting those points worked out.
Benson said there will be no personnel changes right away.
"I know a lot about automobile dealerships but I have never coached a team and I don't want to start now," Benson said.
He said the $64 million price tag included $49 million in cash, a $10 million note being held by Mecom and $5 million of current liabilities.
There was no request for state loans or state guarantees as had been the case with a previous proposal by other parties.