The National Football League is going to play it again. Today, the league approved the use of instant replays to aid officiating on an experimental basis for nine nationally televised preseason games in 1985, beginning with the Hall of Fame Game between Houston and the New York Giants this summer.
There will be no challenges from coaches or requests from officials. Instead, the NFL will station an "extra official" in the press box in front of a TV monitor, with a radio to the officials on the field.
If he sees a play, particularly one involving possession of the ball, that he believes was incorrectly called, he can use a replay to decide the correct call -- provided the replay comes on within 20 seconds.
"If it doesn't come on in 20 seconds, the game will go on," said Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys, chairman of the NFL competition committee, which proposed the plan at the league's winter meetings.
"The fans will hardly be aware that this is happening."
The man in the box will not be allowed to call penalties.
"It's just another pair of eyes with access to the television set," said committee member Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins.
The TV networks will have no role in selection of replays, Schramm said. The replay the extra official sees will be the same one a fan sitting in the living room sees, which is why if it doesn't come on in 20 seconds, play will begin and the call will be forgotten.
Owners, coaches and team officials also passed a "pace of the game" package of procedures to cut an average of nine minutes from each game, Schramm said.
Timeouts in the last two minutes will be reduced from 90 seconds to 60; on penalties, the game clock will be restarted with the ready-to-play signal if the penalty was the reason the clock was stopped; officials will be asked to cut five seconds off the elapsed time from the end of each play to the ready signal; officials will be asked to accelerate the mechanics of assessing and marking off penalties; kickers will be required to kick off within five seconds after the referee blows his whistle following a commercial, and the networks will be urged to tighten telecast mechanics.
Meanwhile, helmet radios, which did not receive a rousing response here Wednesday, already have been given a reprieve.
Schramm said the manufacturers have devised a way for a third party, located on the sideline, to switch the quarterback's transmitter on before the snap and switch it off immediately after so the system will not be abused during plays.
If the teams go along, the radios will be used by Seattle and San Francisco in preseason games.
In other matters, the Super Bowl is returning to familiar territory in the Deep South. Miami and New Orleans, where 10 of the 19 Super Bowls have been played, were awarded the 1989 and 1990 Super Bowls, respectively.
New Orleans, host to five Super Bowls, is the site of next year's game, in the Superdome.
The 1991 Super Bowl site was not chosen today, but Commissioner Pete Rozelle said it will be played in a domed stadium north of the Mason-Dixon line.
All indications are that will be Minneapolis' Metrodome.