NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee yesterday, again gave no blanket assurances that the league would not shift more games away from network television in the future.

But Rozelle, joined by Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, said unequivocally that the league had no plans to move any playoff games or the Super Bowl off network TV.

Rozelle was appearing before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust and monopolies. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) last week introduced a resolution calling for the Justice Department to study the impact of the NFL's latest television contract on existing antitrust laws and to look, in particular, at the league's move to cable (ESPN) for the first time. Specter has expressed concern about more games moving from free television to cable.

In his opening statements, Specter said the ESPN contract "may be the start of making professional football a pay item for the American public." Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) told Rozelle that "the National Football League ought to understand there's a very strong feeling in Congress . . . {and} we shouldn't have very much trouble moving legislation through on a fast track to see that free TV coverage of pro football is continued in this country."

In the NFL's latest three-year TV contract, ESPN received rights to televise eight regular season games each season.

The NFL, in order to get a network contract, was forced to get an antitrust exemption in 1961 because of an existing adverse decision. In granting the exemption through the Sports Broadcasting Act, Congress limited it -- without fully defining -- to the use of "sponsored telecasting." Specter's focus on ESPN is based on his claim the cable network is not sponsored telecasting, and that the term meant only "free network television."

At separate junctures, Metzenbaum and Specter each asked Rozelle what assurances he could give the American public that games would remain on network television.

The first time, Rozelle responded: "No. 1, I would say that there's our past track record . . . We are so dependent on broadcast television. About 60 percent of our income comes from broadcast television, and we were the last {of major professional sports} to go on cable television."

The second time, Rozelle said: "I can only say: Look at what we've done. We've saturated the public. We're the only sport that televises every game . . . We are protecting the public . . . Judicious use of broadcast TV has captivated the public . . . As long as I'm around, I'm sure we always are going to keep in mind the public and Congress. We're not going to do anything rash."

But Rozelle stopped short of saying the NFL would not expand its non-network presence, and Specter reminded him that in previous years, Rozelle had testified the NFL probably would not move to cable at all.

Specter asked Rozelle if there was any consideration to putting the playoffs or Super Bowl on pay TV. "No," Rozelle responded.

Modell, a member of the owners' TV negotiating committee, said he "never had a single conversation with anybody ever about that."

Modell also testified, "I can never envision {the Super Bowl} on cable . . . Our immediate goal is to broadcast our games to the widest possible audience, and that can only be done by broadcasting largely over network television."

ESPN President Bill Grimes testified that his network's inclusion in televising NFL games "reflects enhanced competition for television rights, provides a new outlet for advertisers who wish to sponsor NFL telecasts and increases the availability of NFL football to television viewers."