Wednesday, August 1
Ravens take Stringer's death hard

WESTMINSTER, Md. -- A half-hour before the scheduled end of practice Wednesday morning, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick gathered his team at midfield.

The players dropped to one knee, bowed their heads and paid homage to Korey Stringer, the Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl tackle who died Wednesday of heat exhaustion after collapsing at a practice one day earlier.

Do we have a conscious eye to make sure that our players stay fresh and healthy? Yes. Does that mean I take it easy on them, or try to ingratiate myself to them? That couldn't be further from the truth.
Ravens coach Brian Billick

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

A number of other teams around the league also held moments of silence in memory of Stringer.

Billick, the Vikings' offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1998, worked closely with Stringer, a right tackle drafted in the first round by Minnesota in 1995.

"Korey was one of God's gentle people," Billick said. "It's always a tragedy when you lose somebody young like that. We just wanted to pay our respects."

Stringer, 27, vomited at least three times at Tuesday morning's practice but didn't summon a trainer until the session had ended. The 335-pound offensive lineman developed symptoms of heat stroke and was unconscious upon his arrival at the hospital.

"He was one of my better friends on the team," said Ravens backup quarterback Randall Cunningham, who played with the Vikings from 1997-98. "We would eat together, spend a lot of quality time together. We really got to know each other.

"This thing really affected me today."

Billick, like most NFL coaches, holds two-a-day practices during training camp. But he runs each session at a rapid pace, and his first priority is keeping the players fresh.

"You don't want to wear your guys out. But I don't like when people refer to this as an easy camp," Billick said. "Do we have a conscious eye to make sure that our players stay fresh and healthy? Yes. Does that mean I take it easy on them, or try to ingratiate myself to them? That couldn't be further from the truth."

The Ravens have been blessed with unseasonably pleasant weather during their first week of training camp, which has been a boon for the players and a mixed blessing for their coach.

"You need the heat to get into condition," Billick said. "We've kind of had a break here, but you know the hot weather is coming. When it gets hot and humid, you have big guys who can lose 20 to 30 pounds in a single day, and that's all dehydration."

After being removed from the practice field on a cart Monday, Stringer waved away trainers during Tuesday's session.

"The old school, way back when I was playing, (dictated) that tough guys don't drink water," Billick said. "Yeah, it was good and tough, but it extremely stupid. We've since learned that, obviously."

The Ravens warn their players to drink during practice and tell someone -- anyone -- if the heat becomes overwhelming.

"We try to tell the players to stay in condition, start early, stay hydrated and let the coaches and trainers know what's going on," Ravens head trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "That's most important. There's a time to be tough and a time to be smart or an athlete can suffer a significant illness."

Pro football training camp is about big men playing a physical game in heavy equipment in intense heat and stifling humidity. Sadly, Korey Stringer was a victim of those circumstances.

"It's unexpected. When the good Lord brings you home, there's nothing you can do about it," Ravens offensive tackle Leon Searcy said. "It's just unfortunate that a young brother like Korey had to go so soon."

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