The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the NFL's request for broad antitrust law protection Monday, saying the league must be considered 32 separate teams - not one big business - when selling branded items like jerseys and caps.

"Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned," said the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for an unanimous court.

Stevens made a distinction between the cooperation necessary for the league to function and the fact that the teams are independent businesses.

The high court reversed a lower court ruling throwing out an antitrust suit brought against the league by one of its former hat makers, upset that it lost its contract for making official NFL hats to Reebok International Ltd.

American Needle, Inc. claimed the league violated antitrust law because all 32 teams worked together to freeze it out.

Helmet query. A congressional committee criticized the NFL's research into equipment, particularly helmets, questioning if player safety is indeed being given top priority in an "infected system that needs to be cleaned up."

At a forum in New York, the House Judiciary Committee also expressed dissatisfaction with how the league is dealing with retired players now suffering from traumatic head injuries.

When Dr. Hunt Batjer, a co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine medical committee, was asked why he does not have a stronger role in gathering data about equipment, he said the committee will become "heavily involved" in collecting information on helmets.

Broncos. Denver coach Josh McDaniels emphatically denied the team is trying to deal one of its four quarterbacks - in particular, starter Kyle Orton.

"There's not one quarterback on our roster that's been discussed or would be discussed at this point in any trade talks," McDaniels said. "We're going to let them compete and the best guy is going to play."

Chiefs. Kansas City players were tight-lipped over an ESPN The Magazine article in which wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said teammates arranged for women they met on social networking sites to meet them at a San Diego hotel during a 2007 road trip.