HAVE THE SAINTS been involved in more devilish behavior?

First the bounty scandal, now this: ESPN's "Outside the Lines," citing sources, reported that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome box that gave him the ability to use an earpiece to eavesdrop on opposing coaches from 2002-04. The report made it clear, however, that "Outside the Lines" could not verify that Loomis ever used the device.

According to the report, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told about the device on Friday.

"Outside the Lines" reported that its sources were familiar with the team's game-day operations but wanted to remain anonymous, "because of fear of reprisals from members of the Saints organization."

Loomis addressed the allegations in a statement to the Associated Press Monday.

"I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league-issued stats for the game," he wrote. "I have a small TV with the network broadcasts and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio game broadcast. To think I am sitting in there listening and actually . . . doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much more less credible. It just didn't happen."

Loomis' best defense may be the team's record during the time the device was allegedly in place. If he was cheating, it sure didn't help the Saints, who were 12-12 at home during that time and failed to make the playoffs in those three seasons.

According to the report, Loomis rewired a device originally installed so that former GM Randy Mueller could listen in on the Saints coaching staff. A source told "Outside the Lines" that Loomis had it altered so that he could listen to game-day converstations of opposing coaches.

Loomis has been suspended for the first eight game of next season for his role in the bounty program in which Saints players were offered bonuses for injuring opposing players. Head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for all of next season, and the team was fined $500,000 and forfeited second-round picks in this week's and next year's NFL draft. n