.... when the damned clock stops with the out of bounds rule these days. My understanding always was that unless forward progress had already been stopped by the defense prior to the ball carrier going out of bounds then the clock stopped. But increasingly the decision seems to be getting more and more random. Players are brushed out of bounds by the merest touch and the clock keeps running, other times a guy gets gang tackled straight across the pitch and the clock stops.
If the answer to this is bleeding obvious then please forgive me, I'm an ignorant Brit, and an Eagles fan still traumatised by visions of Donovans broken ankle
One thing to keep in mind is that in order to speed up the game, the NFL changed rules recently so that instead of the clock stopping anytime a player went out of bounds, it's now (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong someone) only in the last 5 min. of each half that going out of bounds causes a clock stoppage.
I think its last 2 minutes of the first half, last 5 of second half, but I might be wrong. The clock does stop during the rest of the game until the ball is spotted on out of bounds plays, then restarted when the play clock begins.
I want you to know, I agree with everything I've just said.
The clock should stop until the ball is set on out of bounds plays. However, in a effort to speed up the game, the referees are encouraged to take a very liberal definition of the stoppage of forward progress in play. Of course, some officials may be less liberal than others, which would explain the inconsistancy. But for the most part, from what I've seen, unless the player pretty much runs out of bounds untouched, the referees will rule that the player is down by stopped forward progress in the field of play, and keep the clock rolling.
(Note that the NFL speeds up the game by cutting plays, or substance, not by cutting the millions of commercial breaks during the game!)