A day after he provoked New Orleans Saints quarterback Jim Everett to attack him during a live interview on ESPN2 Wednesday night, talk show host Jim Rome admitted yesterday he had "gone too far." But ESPN executives said they would not take disciplinary action against Rome.

On his weeknight Los Angeles-based show "Talk2," Rome repeatedly called the quarterback "Chris Evert," a reference to the female tennis legend, and, apparently, an attempted slight at Everett's toughness.

Although Rome had used that nickname many times on television and radio, this was the first time he said it to Everett's face. Everett warned Rome not to say it again, and, when Rome did, Everett overturned a table, sending Rome to the floor. Everett then stood over him as a producer intervened and the show cut away.

"Jim {Rome} went too far," ESPN Executive Editor John A. Walsh said in a conference call that included Rome and show producers. But "we do not think this represents the body of work Jim has done on 140 shows. ... I don't think there is any cause" for suspension.

Rome, who has been with ESPN2 since its inception in October but had no prior television experience, stressed that "Talk2" producers had made clear to Everett that he would be called "Chris Evert."

"Jim {Everett} said to us, 'That's fair; let's do it,' " Rome said. "It was not malicious. It was all in good fun, verbal jousting."

After the incident, Everett immediately left the studios. According to Rome, Everett told a producer: " 'I've had to listen to this {on Rome's radio show} for three years. I'm sorry. I just snapped.' "

Everett, a Ram from 1986-93, said in a teleconference: "I really don't condone my actions, but I was put in a position that I thought was going to be in a journalistic-type interview and, instead, I was put into what I felt was a taunting attack. I don't regret what I did."

Rome, meanwhile, was hammered by reporters from around the country who questioned his motives (Rome said the incident was not staged) and his integrity (both Rome and Walsh said that "Talk2" is a "mix of entertainment and journalism").

Rome first gained regional fame in Southern California as the host of a daily sports radio show on XTRA-AM-690. Known on the air as "Romey," he has a devoted following of fans, who use his "Romeisms" -- catch-phrases such as "talking smack" and "tanked it."

Rome said he has sparred with athletes before -- making fun of the first name of former Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Howie Long and calling Los Angeles Kings defenseman Marty McSorley "Cash, because of his love of money" -- but never to the point of violence.

"Jim has an incredible cult following," said Bill Plaschke, a Los Angeles Times football writer. "He has these clones who call him, and they spend their entire week ripping athletes on his show."

Rome would not discuss why he refers to the quarterback as "Chris Evert," saying only that he intends to invite Everett on another show to answer that question.

Most observers feel that Rome uses the nickname because of Everett's reputation among some Rams fans as a soft player who can't take a hit. Before the altercation, Everett disagreed, asking: "How many sacks have I taken and come back from?"

Rome said he now realizes the nickname offends not just Everett, but also, in a sexist manner, the tennis player. When asked if he would still use the nickname, Rome said, "No, probably not."