Kill goes from Mayo to practice field

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2011 - 5:24 AM

Turning around the Gophers, he says, requires more attention than his seizures.

It's not that he doesn't take his recent seizures seriously, Jerry Kill said Wednesday after conducting football practice only four hours after leaving his hospital bed. It's just that he has a problem that strikes him as far more grave right now:

The Gophers' 1-3 record.

Kill checked out of Mayo Clinic late Wednesday morning and was in a coaches' meeting on campus by 1 p.m., determined once more not to let his seizure disorder slow him down. He ran practice, conferred on the game plan for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Michigan and declared his intention to manage his condition, not the other way around. He wasn't quite as defiant as when he declared "I ain't changing," last week, but the message was basically the same.

Step back from his job? Not likely.

"I can't take two weeks off. I can't take three weeks off. Minnesota hired me to turn a program around, so that's what I'm trying to do," said the 50-year-old coach, who has battled recurring seizures since late in the Gophers' loss to New Mexico State on Sept. 10. "I can't do it not being here. If I have to be a little different at practice or whatever, that's fine. But I have to be here."

Kill, who looked far healthier and more energetic than when he returned from his first seizure and a five-day hospital stay, said a statement from the university on Sunday that he had "checked himself into Mayo" was not true, inferring that he was simply taken there following another major seizure. But the coach minimized any potential danger that his condition poses to his health, pointing out that doctors don't consider the seizures to be life-threatening.

"I think everybody is trying to protect Coach Kill," he said. Doctors are trying different methods and medications to prevent or at least minimize future attacks, and he intends to keep working while they explore solutions. "They haven't got it all figured out yet," he said, "but hopefully they're making progress on it, and we'll be fine."

Athletic director Joel Maturi said from New York that he had not spoken to the coach but was "excited he is back with the team." And so were the players.

Kill didn't announce his presence to his team, so the Gophers were surprised -- but not shocked, linebacker Mike Rallis said -- to see him back at work when they arrived on the practice field.

"Not shocked. This guy's a warrior," Rallis said. Kill called the team together "and told us, just keep plugging along, keep getting better every day. Tune out all the distractions."

Of course, Kill being absent has inevitably been a distraction, though his staff has worked to keep the players focused on football.

"They understand it. If I was hurting the football team, that's a different story. But that's not happening right now," Kill said. "I'm still very involved with what's going on. We lost a game last week -- North Dakota State outplayed us and outcoached us, [and] it wouldn't matter if I had 19 days to mend. We just have to worry about getting better."

So does he, and both projects are going to take time. Trouble is, the Gophers don't have much, not with five ranked teams coming up over the next nine weeks. "I have a complicated issue. It's not something I'm going to die from, but it's complicated right now," Kill said to a larger-than-normal media gathering. "So it isn't like I'm going home and resting."

No, he's preparing to play Michigan in Ann Arbor this Saturday, and Kill said he will be 100 percent in charge, as always. "The rest of it, I've talked enough about it. I'm just trying to get right," he said, clearly impatient that his health has become the focus of the Gophers' season. "To be honest, I'm so tired of talking about it, I just want it over. I just don't want to talk about it. I'm wore out with it."

The condition recurred Sunday, but he was doing fine before then, he said, including at Saturday's loss to North Dakota State. "I'd like to tell you I was 50 percent [and] that's why we got beat, but I was 100 percent on Saturday," he joked. "Have I gone through some stuff over the last two weeks? I could write a book."

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