But it doesn't figure to shorten the game. The average time of exhibitions this year, 2:59:31, is only nine seconds shorter than last year, and three minutes longer than in 1991.
ON TOP OF HIS GAME
Nobody is starting the regular season in better condition than Buddy Ryan, the new defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers. His mouth has been in midseason form for weeks.
On the Oilers' chances: "It will be an all-Texas Super Bowl--if Dallas makes it."
On Mike Ditka's new job as a TV commentator: "He ought to do a good job. He's been an actor for a long time."
On a one-day salary walkout by defensive tackle Ray Childress: "I hope he comes back, but I don't write the checks. If I did, I'd give myself a raise for the fine job I'm doing."
On the Oilers' decision to try sneaking rookie kick returner Patrick Robinson through waivers, only to lose him to the Cincinnati Bengals: "I hope he returns one right up our . . . . It was a mistake. There wasn't any question about it. We not only hurt ourselves, we helped them."
What Ryan didn't say is that his son Jim is Robinson's agent. And that his son Robert was Robinson's position coach at Tennessee State.
So the New England Patriots will play their first regular-season game in their new uniforms Sunday at Buffalo. Big deal.
Of the 10 teams that have changed their uniforms since 1966, only two posted markedly improved records the next year, with only one team going to the Super Bowl.
That was the 1981 Cincinnati Bengals. With tiger stripes on their helmets and pants, they went from 6-10 to 12-4 and a Super Bowl defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in January of 1982.
The Patriots, alas, have no stripes. Their new logo resembles a guy with a bad haircut taking a nap.
THE FALCON AND THE SNOW JOB
Look for some illegal chucks in the secondary Sunday when the Falcons visit the Detroit Lions.
Tim McKyer, former Falcon cornerback and loudmouth, showed he has not lost his form since signing with the Lions. He started a feud by immediately deriding one of the Falcon heroes.
"I guess Deion (Sanders) never got beat," he said. "Matter of fact, Deion doesn't get beat--he just quits on the play. Seen it a bunch of times. But I get the rap, right? You explain it. Nobody puts me in the same category as Deion, but I know for a fact that I'm as good or better than Deion, and I'll prove it."
This angered Andre Rison, Falcon wide receiver and Sanders' friend.
"I can't believe he made the comments he made about Deion," Rison said. "Somebody that sorry, to say that kind of stuff about Prime, he's got to be crazy. I don't even see why Detroit picked him up. He's terrible. He can't cover. They must have been awful desperate."
So what will happen when they meet Sunday?
"If he tries to check me, it's going to help my incentives," Rison said. "But I'm getting in the paint anyway. Write it down, two TDs at least. Maybe three. He (irritated) the wrong guy and the wrong team."
Rison was cleared to play by the Falcons after being arrested for aggravated assault Thursday morning.
If Steve McMichael plays in all 16 games for the Bears--and he looks both strong and ugly enough to pull it off--then he will have played in more games for the franchise, 191, than any other player in the Bears' 73-year history. . . . Miami will open the season with six first-round draft picks starting on offense--Keith Byars, Irving Fryar, Mark Ingram, Keith Jackson, Richmond Webb and Dan Marino. . . . Steve DeBerg, Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback, on his two rookie receivers from the University of Miami, Lamar Thomas and Horace Copeland: "They show flashes of brilliance and flashes of, 'What the heck are you doing?' "
When Joe Montana asked the Kansas City Chiefs for No. 16, which belonged to Len Dawson and had been retired, the Chiefs said no. When Pat Swilling asked the Detroit Lions for No. 56, which had belonged to Joe Schmidt and had been retired, the Lions asked Schmidt if he would give it up. C'mon guys, what was he supposed to say? He said yes, No. 56 will be worn for the first time in Detroit in 28 years, and that stinks.
There are rumors that Don James, the Washington coach who walked out on his team, is the top candidate to become the next coach of the Seattle Seahawks when Tom Flores returns to the front office. "Some of those rumors are probably thought up in closets," Flores said. So that's where James has been hiding. . . . Steve Young might be sorry he persuaded the San Francisco 49ers to let him play Sunday at Pittsburgh. Harris Barton, the right tackle charged with stopping Kevin Greene, is not starting because of a knee injury.