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New Tennessee football rule relates to helmet, shoulder pad use in practice

High school football coaches take note.

A new TSSAA rule mandates players must have two days of practice in helmets this week before they practice in helmets and shoulder pads for three days. Previously, teams needed to practice three days in shoulder pads over a five-day span before players could put on full pads.

“This is new,” TSSAA assistant director Mark Reeves said. “It’s not new that they need to be in shells prior to the first day of practice in pads.

“But we scripted this first week to make sure everyone had two days in helmets before going three days in shoulder pads.”

Teams have been permitted to practice in helmets since June – minus the two-week TSSAA dead period. However, Reeves pointed out there is no way to guarantee linemen have been in helmets recently with teams participating in 7-on-7 tournaments and competitions since the dead period ended July 8.

“It may have been three weeks ago since they have been in helmets,” Reeves said. “Our sports medicine team wanted a gradual transition.”

The TSSAA sent an email to coaches and athletics directors reminding them of the rule change. Reeves said he has “been bombarded” with calls about the new rule.

Reeves said if a school practiced Sunday it can use that as a day in helmets.

He said the rule could be adapted in the future to include the week prior for those players who wore helmets previously.

“What we got back from coaches and our sports medicine team is if you simply say athletes have to have two days in helmets after the dead period you could have offensive linemen that haven’t had helmets on since July 8 and 9,” Reeves said. “Then the next time they see them in helmets is (Monday) because they aren’t in 7-on-7.”

Franklin coach Donnie Webb noticed the rule change in March when he was working on his schedule for the upcoming season. At that time, he adjusted his plan to guarantee the Rebels had two days of helmets and three days in shoulder pads.

“We normally give this Friday off,” Webb said.

Webb said his linemen have had time in helmets since the dead period ended.

“We’ve been in helmets doing what’s allowed,” Webb said. “If we are doing 7-on-7 with skill players, we are also doing something with linemen.”

This week is crucial to have two days in helmets followed by three days in helmets and shoulder pads. The first day in practice in full pads is July 29, and athletes who haven’t gone through the heat acclimation of practice in helmets followed by practice in helmets and shoulder pads can’t don full pads.

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