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2017 rule changes

New for 2017: No dawdling

The NFL has two new officials’ mechanics to help speed up the game.




The NFL, in trying to get all the commercials played yet get off the air in time for 60 Minutes, wants the officials and teams to hustle between the try for point or field goal and the ensuing kickoff and not to wait for TV if there is a replay challenge.

In 2014, the average time of a NFL game was 3:06. It creeped up to 3:09 last year. For 2017, the NFL has new mechanics to move the game along.

Hustle up

After the extra point or successful field goal, the 40-second play clock starts. The officials and teams line up for the kickoff. After the 40-seconds expire, the back judge will start the 25-second play clock. The officials will penalize the kicking team for delay of game if the play clock expires.

So, the NFL wants 65-seconds between the extra point and the kickoff. If TV is in commercial, the back judge won’t start the 25-second play clock until the commercial is over.

This is a good way pick up the game pace. After the extra point the teams usually jog over to the sideline. The coach takes a few extra moments to encourage or harangue their team and the officials take a moment to shoot the breeze.

Not anymore. Now the clock governs all teams consistently.

Replay during commercial

Last year, if the referee “punched out” to a commercial and there was a replay challenge, the referee didn’t review the play until the break was over.When TV was came back from break, the referee announced the challenge to the audience and then went under the hood.

This year, if a challenge happens in a commercial break, the referee will review the play immediately. Hopefully the referee will have finished or almost finished the review once the commercial is over. The announcers and the referee can then catch the audience up and get on with the game.

I’ll be interested to see if these mechanics actually shortens the game.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"