While it won't be full-contact just yet, the familiar sound of pads popping returns to area football fields today as high school teams take advantage of a new TSSAA rule allowing them to begin practicing in shoulder pads and helmets one week earlier than in previous years.
Last spring, in a move to help high school football players throughout Tennessee get acclimated to the heat before full-contact practice begins, the TSSAA Board of Control approved a rule to move up the date of the first day teams can practice in helmets and shoulder pads by one week. Beginning today, teams across the state must now practice at least three days in helmets and shoulder pads before they can begin practicing in full pads next Monday.
"We're ready to get those pads on and get ready for the season now," Signal Mountain coach Bill Price said. "We've had enough of 7-on-7 and working out, and I'm sure there'll be a collision or two. That's what the kids and coaches all want.
"I like the new rule, especially since we're playing week zero. That extra week really helps. It's good to have a few extra days to get the kids used to practicing in the heat with pads on, and it's just safer. I'm all for it."
Week zero is Aug. 23. Price's Eagles will have nearly five weeks of practice in pads before kicking off at home against East Hamilton.
"The season is already starting a week later than it has in the last couple of years, but I believe allowing players an extra week to get used to practicing in the heat will help everyone," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.