Wednesday, August 1
Vikings fans stunned by news

MANKATO, Minn. -- The death of Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer stunned fans who turned out to watch the team's training camp.

Most of the fans hadn't heard that Stringer had died before arriving at Minnesota State University, some as early as 6 a.m.

For people like Scott Westphal, who drove up from northwest Iowa with friends, watching training camp for a couple of days is their best chance to see the Vikings up close.

"I'm stunned," Westphal, 17, said as rain drizzled on the campus. "I bought a picture of him to get signed. ... I wouldn't be able to ask for any autographs now. It's just not right."

About 100 fans were scattered around the campus, many of them in Vikings garb. They included Jim Miner, a retired teacher who drove up from Rochester for the day with his daughter and three grandchildren even after learning that Stringer had died.

"When you're a football player, you're a macho guy," Miner said of Stringer's death. "You don't knuckle under. It doesn't look good to your teammates."

"I know he was a big guy," said Dave Beron, of Duluth. "It was hot yesterday, but you sure don't expect this."

He was among fans who both lamented Stringer's death and worried about its effect on the team.

"It will either bring them close together or it may hang over the team all year," Beron said.

"The team could get behind it and win the season for Korey, but on the other hand it could be so devastating that people just don't care about winning," agreed Steve Dalle, another fan.

Dave Duncan, who drove from the Twin Cities with Dalle to watch Wednesday's practice, played high school football. He said he didn't remember practicing under conditions as harsh as Tuesday's and questioned why Stringer felt he had to push himself so hard.

"I could see this happening in a little tiny college or in high school, but certainly not at this level," Duncan said. "To me he has nothing to prove. He was an All-Pro."

"That's all they've known their whole life," Dalle said, of football players. "You've got to be the top dog if you want the top dollar."

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