The Gophers' intersquad scrimmages included a wild card over the weekend. Every so often, when all attention was on the finish of a play being run, Matt Limegrover would shout a surprise announcement:
"Ed Olson's helmet just came off!" Limegrover said he would yell. Or, "MarQueis Gray just lost his helmet!"
They didn't really, but the coaches wanted their players prepared to react to a new rule that takes effect on Thursday. Starting this year, whenever a helmet comes off a player's head, that player must sit out the next play. And the play clock will not be stopped to allow a substitution.
"Guys maybe used to be over there on the sidelines getting a drink of water, but they've got to be paying attention now," said Limegrover, Minnesota's offensive coordinator. "They need to understand that there are only 40 seconds between plays, and we've got to get a play in and run. So you've always got to be ready to go in a hurry."
And leave quickly, too, if your helmet comes off, another emphasis in the practices. That hasn't happened much this fall, Limegrover said, because the equipment staff has taken it as a challenge to avoid such instances as much as possible. "I give Kyle (Gergely) and Andy (Harris) credit, because they go around every day before (warmups) and say, 'Hey, how's it feel? Let me check your chin strap, let me make sure your helmet is properly inflated," Limegrover said. "Coach (Jerry) Kill has let them know ... he expects this not to be a problem, and we have not had many come off."
Limegrover wouldn't be surprised if the rule catches a few teams by surprise, though.
"You would be amazed at how many guys watching the game, who maybe don't think they're going to play, how their helmet is over on the bench, or a manager is holding it and they're 20 yards downfield," he said. "All of a sudden, that position goes down, you turn and say, 'Hey, Johnny! And now he's scrambling. We've burned timeouts and taken delays. And now with this rule, we've been working to make sure these guys understand the importance of being in the game mentally."