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NFL draft gets hurry-up calls

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Special to The Times

Clock management will be a key element at this weekend’s NFL draft, not only for team officials who select what they hope are future stars, but also for ESPN and the NFL Network, both televising the event from Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The NFL, in an effort to streamline and speed up the draft, reduced the time limit between picks from 15 to 10 minutes for the first round, and from 10 to seven minutes for the second. “While that’s exciting for fans at home,” says ESPN producer Jay Rothman, “it’s going to be a challenge for television.”

The first and second rounds will start at the new time of noon on Saturday. The third round has been moved to Sunday and will begin at 7 a.m.

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“We’ve scaled down by design. We need to be more fleet-footed and not be encumbered by multiple sets,” ESPN’s Rothman said.

In past drafts, ESPN has used more than one set, including one staffed by analysts at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

But because of the shorter time between picks, ESPN’s main focus will be on the set in New York, which will be anchored by Chris Berman, and a team of analysts and reporters made up of Mel Kiper Jr., Steve Young, Ron Jaworski, Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Mortensen and Suzy Kolber.

Saturday’s coverage will switch to ESPN2 at 5 p.m. and last until the conclusion of the second round.

“Fans love debate. They want banter about their team and they want the analysis of their pick,” Rothman said. “Keeping it moving and tight will make it a much more compelling telecast.”

For the NFL Network, Rich Eisen will be the host and Mike Mayock, Steve Mariucci and Marshall Faulk will add commentary for the network’s third year of televising the draft.

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Also available for viewing this weekend:

Lakers at Denver Nuggets (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT; Monday, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT). The Western Conference quarterfinal series moves from sea level to Denver, where the Nuggets hope the mile-high altitude will help slow down the Lakers, averaging 125 points in the series.

Colorado Rockies at Dodgers (tonight, 7:30, Prime; Saturday, 7 p.m., Channel 9; Sunday, 1 p.m., Prime). Joe Torre’s troops open a three-game series against the defending National League champions, who in their last visit to Los Angeles in September swept a three-game series after winning four straight against the Dodgers in Denver.

Angels at Detroit Tigers (today, 4 p.m., FSNW; Saturday, Channel 11, 12:45 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN). The Tigers have rebounded from an 0-7 start and are hitting like the team that was a preseason favorite to win the American League pennant. The Angels return home Monday night for the opener of an important series against the Oakland A’s.

“Icons From the Archives” (Sunday, 2 p.m., Channel 4). NBC presents a one-hour special that features four of the sports world’s most well-known figures: Muhammad Ali, Howard Cosell, Henry Aaron and Joe Namath. The material for the show was gathered from photographs, videotape and film of NBC sports programs that haven’t been broadcast in years, many of which have been stored in the network’s archive warehouse.

IndyCar 300 at Kansas (Sunday, 2 p.m. ESPN, ESPND). Danica Patrick, who became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race last weekend in Japan, is among the favorites at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Patrick’s victory, her first in 50 races, got her a guest appearance this week on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman,” and she was warmly welcomed by her former team owner. Patrick once drove for Rahal Letterman Racing before switching to Andretti Green Racing.

Chivas USA at Galaxy (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FSC, FSE). Los Angeles’ two professional futbol teams renew their rivalry at the Home Depot Center. It should be noted that Claudio Suarez, a Chivas USA defender, has had more broken noses (six) than David Beckham has had goals for the Galaxy.

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PGA Byron Nelson Championship (today, noon, Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday, noon, Channel 2). The PGA tour returns to Texas to honor one of golf’s legends. Scott Verplank is the defending champion.

NASCAR Aaron’s 499 (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11). The Sprint Cup series resumes at the Superspeedway at Talladega, Ala., where 2007 winner Jeff Gordon has won six times.

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