Thursday, August 2
Updated: August 3, 3:04 AM ET
Vikings' thoughts on Stringer, not football

MANKATO, Minn. -- Filing past bouquets and balloons left by grieving fans, the Minnesota Vikings returned to practice Thursday with hopes football would provide comfort for a team in mourning.

Cris Carter
Wide receiver Cris Carter arrives Thursday at the practice field, which was adorned with memorials for Korey Stringer.

The state, meanwhile, began investigating the heatstroke death of tackle Korey Stringer to determine whether the Vikings were negligent. The investigation is routine in a workplace fatality.

An autopsy was performed at Immanuel St. Joseph's-Mayo Health System hospital, where Stringer died.

Dr. David Knowles, a Mankato Clinic physician who led the team of doctors working on Stringer Tuesday, received permission from Korey's wife Kelci to order the autopsy, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Friday. He said he expects to see results in about 10 days.

With conditions considerably cooler than the day Stringer collapsed, the Vikings went through light workouts and insisted that rules and precautions had been followed.

One assistant coach said films of Stringer's last practice showed that he played well, never missing a block.

"It's very unfortunate that he worked himself to death," offensive line coach Mike Tice said.

At a news conference after an 80-minute morning practice, coach Dennis Green brushed aside all medical questions and became angry when pushed for an answer on what happened.

"I'm not going to sit here and act like I have answers as far as what happens when a tragedy occurs, but I'll answer questions about the game of football," Green said.

The 27-year-old Stringer was overcome by heat after finishing Tuesday morning's practice in stifling humidity and temperatures in the low 90s. He died 15 hours later, early Wednesday morning.

James Honerman, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, said the agency met with Vikings officials "and they were very cooperative with us in our investigation."

Family statement
James Gould, a close friend of the Stringers', released this statement on behalf of Kelci, Kodie and the Stringer family:

"The family and I would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support you have shown us. We are deeply touched, and words can't begin to express how much your compassion and kindness has meant to us.

"We are shocked and saddened by Korey's abrupt death. We hurt like you. Our hearts ache like yours. We know the next days, weeks and months will be difficult, but are confident that with your prayers and support, we can get through this.

"We know that you loved Korey, and although he will be missed, he will never, ever be forgotten. We will always cherish our time with Korey. He lived life to its fullest, touching everyone he came in contact with, and always making us smile.

"We truly believe he was a gift from the heavens.

"Korey and his family have lived full-time in the Twin Cities for the past six years, and look forward to remaining active in our community. The only thing we ask as we embark on our future without Korey is that you understand our need for privacy. We just need time."

State officials are talking to the team about "what type of training the staff and employees might have received with regards to heat-related illnesses," Honerman said.

Stringer finished the morning session before asking a trainer for assistance.

Tice, who helped shape Stringer from an overweight lineman into a Pro Bowl player, insisted the tackle showed no warning signs and the coach never considered ordering the 6-foot-4, 335-pounder to take a break.

"I didn't say that, because it didn't look like he needed one," said Tice, who led the linemen in a prayer as they huddled together before Thursday's practice. "He didn't look like he needed water. He looked good on film, too. He had a fantastic practice."

Tice also said Stringer had been upset and embarrassed Tuesday at a newspaper photo that showed him doubled over during Monday's practice. Some Vikings reportedly needled Stringer about the picture.

"He wasn't really thrilled with that picture," Tice said. "He was out to prove he was a leader and wasn't going to let anyone embarrass him like that."

Thursday's workout was cut short by 25 minutes, and the atmosphere was low-key, with less than the usual chatter from coaches and fans. The heat and humidity had subsided, with temperatures in the 70s.

"A lot of good things happened on the field, and I think we took a small, baby step that's important to keep the team together," Green said.

"At some point we'll be working on a championship, but not right now. Right now we're working on the team staying together. We're spending a lot of time trying to provide all the support we can for Korey's family."

Along a fence near the players' entrance to the field, fans had tied a dozen or so bouquets and a handful of balloons to honor Stringer. The fans clapped louder than usual as players filed past for the morning session.

Green and others talked about the difficulty of focusing on football while grieving the loss of one of their most popular teammates. Still, Randy Moss and Cris Carter made several spectacular catches in a scrimmage.

The Vikings had several counselors on hand to talk with players. None skipped Thursday's workout.

Stringer's family, including wife Kelci and 3-year-old son Kodie, issued a statement Thursday thanking the public for its support.

"The only thing that we ask as we embark on our future without Korey is that you understand our need for privacy," the statement said. "We just need time."

The Vikings canceled an intrasquad scrimmage Friday night and offered ticketholders the chance to donate their refunds to Korey's Crew, a community program in the Minneapolis area that Stringer established to encourage education, literacy, volunteerism and youth football participation.

The team also canceled a scrimmage against Kansas City on Monday.

A private funeral service was scheduled for Friday in Edina, Minn. Public viewing will follow.

A public viewing will be held in Warren, Ohio, Stringer's hometown, on Sunday. A private funeral service and burial will follow Monday in Warren.

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