Although National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue indicated yesterday Cincinnati Bengals Coach Sam Wyche will be "very heavily fined" for barring a female reporter from the team's locker room after Monday night's game against the Seahawks in Seattle, Bengals Assistant General Manager Mike Brown said the club "is not going to make an apology to anybody."

Denise Tom of USA Today was prevented from entering Cincinnati's locker room even though male reporters were admitted and the NFL has a policy of equal access for all accredited members of the media.

The incident occurred hours after Tagliabue appointed a special counsel to investigate Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson's allegations of sexual harassment by several New England Patriots players and the club's handling of her complaint.

In addition, just before Monday night's game, Tagliabue met with a group of reporters that included Tom, and reiterated the league's equal-access policy.

Brown confirmed Tom had been barred by Wyche, who said Monday night he was "doing what's best for my players and their wives."

Brown said Wyche met Tom at the locker room door and asked whom she would like to speak with. When Tom requested quarterback Boomer Esiason, Brown said, Wyche retrieved Esiason, who reportedly excused himself from a group of male reporters in the locker room to speak with Tom, who, according to Brown, did not request to speak to any other players.

"She got all the information she asked to get," Brown said during a telephone interview from the club's hotel in Seattle, where it is headquartered this week as it prepares to play the Rams Sunday in Anaheim, Calif. "It doesn't seem to us to be a major violation. We're not denying it was a technical violation. She was not allowed entry, but she got the information she wanted. If that's terrible, so be it."

Al Heim, the Bengals' director of public relations, said: "I think we were providing equal access. We felt like we were helping her."

Tagliabue fined Wyche $3,000 last season for barring all reporters from the Bengals' locker room after a game.

"It's a clear violation of a warning he {Wyche} received from Pete Rozelle two years ago and from me last year about such things," Tagliabue said at a meeting yesterday morning with Seattle business executives.

"If he wants to make a stand on the issue, he can make a stand on the issue. He will be fined very heavily for it. If he wants to quit, he can quit, because he has been warned twice already.

"I don't know much about what occurred {Monday} night," Tagliabue said, "but if he did do what he is alleged to have done, he will be getting a very substantial fine this week. It bothers me that people who are adults in leadership positions do things like this. They should be able to comply with league policy."

Brown ageed with Tagliabue about the need to comply with league policy, but not about the policy itself.

"I don't think it's right," said Brown, adding his club previously had maintained equal access and would do so in the future. "I rather admire him {Wyche} for sticking up for what he thinks is right. But he shouldn't have taken the matter into his own hands. It's not his call. And, heck, he's going to pay the price for it."

Heim said Wyche's decision to close the locker room to women Monday night resulted from an incident after the Bengals' game Sept. 23 at Riverfront Stadium. A woman without a notebook apparently had stood in the locker room after the game, Heim said. Heim said Wyche talked with the players, and the players requested Monday night's arrangement.

Gene Policinski, USA Today's managing editor for sports, called Wyche's behavior "repugnant" and said: "I'm appalled at his statement that he was protecting the players and their wives. It's incomprehensible to me. What a Neanderthal view of Denise's role in that locker room."

Tom declined to comment, but she issued a statement in which said she expects "no less" than verbal and written apologies from Wyche and the Bengals.