NFL looking to speed up pace of games, reduce stoppages in action

The NFL could change game management procedures to speed up the pace of games and reduce stoppages, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday in Houston.

Goodell, giving his annual news conference at the site of Super Bowl LI, provided examples, most notably a new play clock that would minimize the time between point-after attempts and the ensuing kickoff. He said the discussions began several years ago, but acknowledged the urgent timing after the NFL's television ratings fell by 8 percent in 2016 compared to the previous season.

"What we're trying to do is make our product as exciting, and our games as exciting and action-packed, as possible," Goodell said.

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has previously said he thinks the game needs to speed up.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that nobody wants to see two minutes of commercials, come back, kick the ball and then go to a minute-and-a-half of commercials," Bisciotti said in early January.

The changes Goodell mentioned included:

  • A time limit for teams to be ready for a kickoff, reducing the duration of what is typically the least-eventful sequence of an NFL game. The purpose would be to avoid "delays getting the teams assembled and back onto the field," Goodell said.

  • Using Microsoft Surface Pro tablets for replay reviews. The league has experimented with the tablets for replay in previous preseasons and Pro Bowls. Currently, they are approved only for coaches and players to view photographs on the sidelines. Goodell suggested using the tablets would be faster than the current replay stations.

  • Cutting the referee announcement that a play is under review.

  • Reducing the number of commercials from five per quarter to four. "We think less is more in this area," Goodell said. "And we can do it with the right balance that will improve the quality of experience either in the stadium or on television."

Details for most of those changes would be developed by the NFL competition committee and considered by owners this spring or summer. Typically, however, initiatives that Goodell advances in January are approved.

"I expect to see a lot of those changes in the offseason," Goodell said.

Information from ESPN's Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.