The idea was to shorten NFL games by "five to six minutes," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said last march. The rules changes were termed minor wheny they were passed at the owner's meetings.

But after 31 preseason games, the changes have been more dramatic than anyone expected. GAmes are shorter by 15 minutes compared to last year's pre-season contests, socres are down by three points per game and about 12 plays are missing from the average game.The rules that have hastened the pace of games include starting the clock on the referee's "ready" signal after out-of-bounds plays, declined penalties and kickoffs. The clock is still started on the snap from center on scuh plays during the last two minutes of the first half and last five minutes of the game.

With the clock moving more often during dead time, plays are down to 142 per game compared to 154 during regular-season play in 1989. Average game time is 2:52, compared to 3:07 last preseason and 3:11 last regular season.