The National Football League's competition committee, concerned that games are running too long, will present a 66-page report at the league meetings Monday that proposes numerous changes to "get the ball back in play quicker," a league spokesman said today.
The report, titled "Pace of the Game," includes a proposal that timeouts be shortened to 20 seconds during the final two minutes of each half.
"The idea is that if the defense calls a timeout to stop the clock, you wouldn't have to wait 90 seconds, but just 20, to put the ball back in play," said Joe Browne, NFL director of information.
Another proposal calls for the game clock to be started after a penalty, if the penalty was the reason the clock was stopped. If the penalty was called on an incompletion or out-of-bounds play, the clock would not stop.
Two rules changes favored by Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs are included in the package.
One would make pass interference, now marked off from the point of infraction, a 15-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage. The other is an instant replay for controversial calls.
The instant replay rule was proposed last year at the league meetings but did not receive much support.
Gibbs, however, continued to push for its passage.
"It differs from the (U.S. Football League) rule in that there would be no appeal from the coaches," Gibbs said recently. "We would leave it up to the judgment of the officials whether or not they would like to look at the replay."
Other proposed changes in the competition committee package, written by the five-man committee during a two-week session on the Hawaiian island of Maui, allow the use of a one-inch tee on field goals and extra points; reverting to a 45-player roster from the present 49; and modification of the "no taunting" rule put into effect last year.
"They still would not allow the Fun Bunch," Browne said, "but they would liberalize it to some degree. There could be no planned demonstrations."
The emphasis on length of the games in the proposed rules changes is no coincidence. Last season, NFL games averaged 3 hours 9 minutes, two minutes longer than in 1983 and almost 15 minutes longer than a decade ago. It's one of the reasons often cited for the drop of more than 20 percent in television ratings over the last two years.
No votes can be taken on any proposed rules change until 12 hours after its presentation Monday. A three-fourths vote is required to pass any proposal.
The competition committee is composed of Tex Schramm (Dallas Cowboys president and general manager), Eddie LeBaron (Atlanta Falcons executive vice president) Paul Brown (Cincinnati Bengals vice president and general manager), Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers coach) and Don Shula (Miami Dolphins coach).
Among other business before the assembled owners, general managers and coaches who are meeting through Friday, is the choice of the sites of the 1989 and 1990 Super Bowls.
Twelve bids -- from Anaheim, Detroit/Pontiac, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Phoenix -- have been made.
Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, who is building a new stadium to replace the Orange Bowl for his team in Miami, is believed to have a good shot at persuading the league to play the 1989 Super Bowl in Miami. That decision is expected Thursday.