Tuesday, July 31
Updated: August 9, 8:37 AM ET
Vikings tackle Stringer dies from heatstroke

MANKATO, Minn. -- Korey Stringer was determined to prove himself, especially after he needed to be carted off the field on the first day of practice because of exhaustion in the sweltering heat.

Korey Stringer
Korey Stringer goes through a short-stepping drill Monday in the Vikings camp, but had difficulty handling the heat and was hospitalized Tuesday night.

Instead, he collapsed of heatstroke after returning Tuesday and died 15 hours later.

The shocking death of the likeable Pro Bowl offensive tackle -- the first of its kind in the NFL -- left the Vikings and league in mourning and raised questions about how teams practice in the brutal heat of July and August.

"We know we have to play football. But that's not on our mind right now," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "We have lost a 27-year-old man and we are going to miss him."

Stringer, who weighed 335 pounds, vomited three times during the morning conditioning drills in stifling humidity and temperatures in the low 90s. He didn't summon a trainer until the drills had ended, perhaps trying to show he could make it through the day in a league known for its machismo.

Stringer then went to an air-conditioned trailer serving as a makeshift training room on the practice field and lost consciousness. Trainers called paramedics, who took Stringer to Immanuel St. Joseph's-Mayo Health Center. He had a body temperature of 108.8.

His organs failed and he never regained consciousness before dying at 1:50 a.m. Central time Wednesday.

Later in the day, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ordered all 31 teams to review their rules on training. Chicago Bears coach Dick Jauron canceled Wednesday afternoon's practice because of oppressive heat and high humidity, though he said it was not a direct response to Stringer's death.

"When this happens, it should cause everybody to wake up," Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy said.

Many Vikings, including the entire offensive line, visited Stringer in the hospital throughout the night. Green and teammates Cris Carter and Randy Moss were there until the end.

"We thought everything was going to change" at the hospital, Carter said. "There's nothing that can prepare you for something like this. The amount of hurt we have as a team -- we are devastated."

Moss, wearing a black baseball cap low over his eyes, joined Carter and Green at a news conference and had to be helped from the podium as he sobbed.

"The only thing I've been thinking about for the last 24 hours is, if he does die, what happens to his little boy?" Moss said, referring to Stringer's 3-year-old son, Kodie.

"I don't even know how and when I'm going to get over this, because it's hard. There's a lot of people in America that's feeling our pain, throughout the world, and we know Korey Stringer, Number 77, is going to be missed."

As Moss put his head on the podium and cried, Carter talked of Stringer as a "pro's pro," always determined to get better and at his lowest weight since his college days at Ohio State.

"We really don't understand. We're just shocked," Carter said.

Around the league, teams held moments of silence Wednesday in Stringer's memory.

"We lost one of our own," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "And when I say one of our own, I mean one of the NFL family."

Green, who also had to wipe away tears, said: "Korey meant so much to us because he always had that smile on his face."

Stringer, a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 1995, had problems keeping his weight under control and often had trouble in the first days of camp. But so do many players.

Trainer Chuck Barta said five other Vikings had heat-related problems at practice.

"You recognize you have to force fluids down them. You also use ice towels to keep them cool on the outside so they don't sweat as much," said Barta, who didn't speak specifically about what was done to aid Stringer.

Barta said he sometimes recommends toning down the intensity of practice because of heat, but it wasn't clear if he did so Tuesday.

Green isn't known for running tough practices, and many NFL teams hold longer training camps than the Vikings.

Tuesday's session had one-on-one drills with intense hitting, lasting from 8:45 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., a bit longer than usual. Players have access to fluids and iced towels, but no water-misting devices or fans were on the field this week.

Players, coaches and team officials kept a vigil into the night for Stringer, one of the most popular players on the team.

Barta, offensive line coach Mike Tice and medical services coordinator Fred Zamberletti were there for much of the day and evening. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, receivers Moss and Carter and the entire offensive line also went to the hospital.

Stringer, picked by the Vikings in the first round of the 1995 draft, started every game at right tackle the past two seasons. He had struggled with weight problems early in his career before slimming down and having a breakout Pro Bowl season last year. He reported to camp at 335 pounds and said he was in the best shape of his career, but also was in difficulty on Monday, the first day of camp, when he was taken off the practice field on a cart.

Green declined to answer questions about how practice was handled in the heat or how Stringer was treated during the drills. The hospital and team officials said they couldn't release details without permission from Stringer's family.

A brief statement from Vikings camp doctor David Knowles said Stringer suffered damage to his vital organs, developed a bleeding disorder, kidney failure and then heart failure.

Carter made it clear no one was pointing fingers.

"It's hot everywhere," Carter said. "That's why they call it the dog days of summer. ... There's certain things you can't explain."

Stringer's wife, Kelci, and Kodie were at the team's training facility on the Minnesota State University campus Wednesday afternoon and other relatives were still arriving.

Stringer started every game at right tackle the past two seasons. He was one of the most popular players in the locker room, known for doing impressions of teammates and coaches.

"He did me the best," Green said.

Stringer was popular with fans, too. He lived in the Twin Cities year-round and had established community service programs at schools and with the St. Paul public library.

Fans who gathered at the Vikings' camp as early as 6 a.m. Wednesday were stunned to hear of Stringer's death.

"I bought a picture of him to get signed," said Scott Westphal, who drove up from northwest Iowa with friends to watch practice. "I wouldn't be able to ask for any autographs now. It's just not right."

The death came six days after Florida freshman Eraste Autin died after collapsing of heatstroke. Figures from the University of North Carolina show that 18 high school or college players have died of heat-related causes since 1995.

The only other NFL training camp fatality is believed to be J.V. Cain, a tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, who died of a heart attack on July 22, 1979, his 28th birthday. Chuck Hughes, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, died of a heart attack Oct. 24, 1972, during a game in Detroit against the Chicago Bears.

The Vikings tentatively scheduled a memorial service and eulogy for Friday afternoon in the Twin Cities, with the funeral scheduled for Monday in Stringer's hometown of Warren, Ohio.

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