Many District high school football players were ready to start contact drills today, but the hitting will have to wait. Nearly all D.C. public school programs have yet to receive either their helmets or shoulder pads because of a delay in getting the equipment reconditioned.

District officials acknowledge the reconditioning process started late because it took longer than expected to conduct competitive bidding among vendors. After winning the contract, Riddell Inc. picked up the equipment in late June -- nearly a week later than usual, said Allen Chin, executive director of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association. Chin said the equipment -- which was scheduled to be returned on Aug. 1 -- is expected by the end of next week.

Several DCIAA coaches said the delay will disrupt preseason practice schedules -- today is the first day teams were allowed to run contact drills, and many squads are scheduled to start scrimmages next week and open the regular season on Aug. 26. Among the schools that don't have helmets are Anacostia, Ballou, Cardozo, H.D. Woodson, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson and Spingarn. Dunbar does not have enough shoulder pads. Coaches from Coolidge and Eastern were not available to comment.

Theodore Roosevelt's football team was scheduled to begin contact drills today and has scrimmages planned for Wednesday and Friday. All of that is in doubt now, Coach Daryl Tilghman said, so he has reached out to the Redskins and coaches from several other schools to see if they have extra equipment to lend him.

"You can't play football without helmets," he said.

-- Judith Evans