MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)The Minnesota State High School League has changed the rules for football practice.

The changes are not unique to Minnesota. High school leagues across the country are taking steps to limit the amount of contact players have during practice.

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The changes come at a time when the sport is seeing a decline in the number of kids participating.

The MSHSL says the changes were all made in the name of safety. It hopes these changes help protect players and gives coaches time to focus more on teaching the fundamentals of the game.

The new rules give high school football players 14 days at the beginning of the season to get acclimated to the game.

“With football, wearing heavy pads and practicing in the hot weather and so on, making sure we do a gradual build up for kids,” MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle said.

The new rules limit the amount of time spent on the field practicing to four or five hours a day. The MSHSL also limits the amount of contact players have because of concerns regarding concussions.

The first week of practice is helmets only, and there is no full contact. Players will gradually make their way up to full pads.

The second week there will be contact, but there are restrictions.

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“Once they get to week two, they can only have contact for up to 30 minutes a day and only one time per day,” Merkle said.

He says players will have a certain amount of rest between practices when there are two a days.

“I think the steps that our high school league is taking and our association is taking is awesome,” Blaine head football coach Tom Develice said.

He says his team and many others across the state have already adopted this new way of practice.

“A lot of the changes in terms of contact and the number of hours you’re out on a practice, that didn’t affect us as much because we haven’t been full contact for many years here anyways at Blaine because we don’t want to get injuries to our kids before a game,” Develice said.

He says less pounding on the body in the August heat is better for players mentally and physically.

Develice says the hardest thing to adjust to will be playing a game a week earlier than in years past. Teams will now play during the week usually designated for scrimmaging.

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The MSHSL had to start the season a week early to accommodate the schedules of the Gophers and Vikings, as they all share TCF Bank Stadium.

Reg Chapman