NEW YORK, SEPT. 25 -- As has been the case ever since he assumed the commissioner's role, Paul Tagliabue got his way today.

NFL owners approved his plan that will allow teams to sign up to five practice players, similar to the developmental squads that teams had last year before eight players filed a class action suit to ban their existence.

By a vote of 23-2 with three abstentions, owners approved a plan that will require them to pay at least $225,000 in salary but no more than $325,000 for three to five practice players. Those players, who will be paid $3,000 per week, can be signed as free agents by other clubs at any time but have to be activated immediately by their new clubs.

The reserve squads had been abolished earlier this year after the suit, which noted that players were receiving only $1,000 a week, compared with the $50,000 minimum for an active player, and had no freedom of movement.

Voting against the plan were Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, both of which did not like changing rules after the season had begun.

"The concern was that if we changed now, some teams would have an advantage others wouldn't have," Tagliabue said. "I think the basic philosophy was that it was an equal set of terms for all the teams, and it was competitive from a football standpoint. Once people understood that and the competition committee spoke to that point, I think everyone felt it should be done."

Some viewed the measure as symbolic, since it is one of the few times the owners and players have reached agreement on an issue since 1987, when the players went on strike. But Tagliabue said: "I don't view it as symbolic. I don't view it as an agreement with the union. It's a settlement of lawsuit claims that were filed for 1990 and it's nothing more, nothing less than an agreement with the plaintiffs in that case so we can have a workable practice squad for 1990."

But some owners are cautiously optimistic, particularly because of Tagliabue's involvement.

"It's the first time we've agreed on anything with the union in a long time," said Wellington Mara of the New York Giants. "In that sense, it's a step forward. Sometimes, when you get new blood involved, you can make strides."

Tagliabue also said he expected to rule on the Eric Dickerson injury case Thursday or Friday. Dickerson, of the Indianapolis Colts, is seeking to be reinstated after having been placed on a suspended list that would keep him out the first six weeks.

The commissioner said he is looking into the case of alleged sexual harassment involving players with the New England Patriots and Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson {See Style, Page C1}.

"I've been briefed as to what occurred up there," Tagliabue said, "but I don't have all the facts at this point, and I don't really have any comment."