The NFL is bolstering security at games this season by requiring teams to conduct pat-downs of fans before they enter stadiums.

Team owners decided during an Aug. 10 meeting in Chicago to implement the measure. About a dozen teams, including the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, used pat-downs as part of their security measures, and the requirement was in place for all playoff games. It has been used at the last four Super Bowls since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and league officials said the feedback they have received from fans has been positive.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue informed the teams in a memo that they had until early in the season to implement the measure. Tagliabue said in a written statement that there was no specific security threat that led to the change.

"This new requirement is not a result of any specific threat information," Tagliabue said. "It is in recognition of the significant additional security that pat-downs offer, as well as the favorable experience that our clubs and fans have had using pat-downs as part of a comprehensive stadium security plan."

Teams are allowed to have more stringent security measures if they choose, and clubs were instructed to announce their policies individually.

* PANTHERS: Carolina officials didn't know some of their players visited a South Carolina doctor suspected of writing illegal steroids prescriptions, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.

The NFL began its investigation into allegations of steroid use after a CBS News report in March identified center Jeff Mitchell, tackle Todd Steussie and punter Todd Sauerbrun as having filled prescriptions written by James Shortt of West Columbia, S.C., for steroids. Several other former Panthers have also been named as Shortt's patients in subsequent reports.

* VIKINGS: Center Matt Birk could miss three months because of hip surgery after Minnesota declined to guarantee his contract for 2006.

Joe Linta, the player's agent, said that Birk will have the surgery on his left hip.

Birk had been cleared to play with painkilling injections, but asked the Vikings to guarantee his nearly $4 million salary for 2006 in exchange for him taking a risk and playing with the pain.

"They've turned down all our proposals," Linta told the Associated Press.

* 49ERS: A black, football-shaped decal featuring Thomas Herrion's No. 72 will be on the back of the team's helmets. The offensive lineman will be honored with words and pictures in a tribute before today's preseason game against Tennessee.

* FALCONS 23, JAGUARS 7: Atlanta looked primed for another run at the NFC championship game with its preaseason victory in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Falcons (3-1) moved the ball with ease against the Jaguars' vaunted defense and scored on three of their first four possessions. Warrick Dunn ran eight times for 65 yards, including a 42-yard scamper that set up a touchdown.