- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

MANKATO, Minn. Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer died today of heat stroke, a day after collapsing at the Minnesota Vikings' training camp on the hottest day of the year.

Stringer, 27, vomited at least three times during yesterday morning's practice but didn't summon a trainer until the session had ended.

The 335-pound lineman developed symptoms of heat stroke, including weakness and rapid breathing, following the practice session.

Stringer was unconscious when he arrived at Immanuel St. Joseph's-Mayo Health System in Mankato, and had a temperature of over 108 degrees.

A statement from the Vikings said his organs failed throughout the day, requiring attention of multiple specialists and staff.

Stringer never regained consciousness and his heart failed at 1:50 a.m. CDT.

Stringer's death came six days after University of Florida freshman Eraste Autin died six days after collapsing of heat stroke. 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 worked out in full pads yesterday, the second day of training camp, despite temperatures in the low 90s and stifling humidity that pushed the heat index as high as 110 degrees.

Trainer Chuck Barta said yesterday that five other Vikings had heat-related problems that day. Barta didn't speak specifically about what was done to aid Stringer, but said in general, “You recognize you have the heat, 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.''

Barta said he sometimes recommends toning down the practice intensity because of heat, but said there's no magical point for that and it wasn't clear if he did so on Tuesday. Head coach Dennis Green isn't known for running tough practices, and many NFL teams hold longer training camps than the Vikings. Players have access to lots of fluids and iced towels, but no water-misting devices or fans were on hand this week.

Yesterday's session had one-on-one drills with intense hitting, then later had scrimmages that afforded players more break time as second-teamers got their work. The morning session ran from 8:45 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., a bit longer than usual.

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 Randy Moss and Cris Carter and the entire offensive line also went to the hospital.

Stringer 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.

Picked by the Vikings in the first round of the 1995 draft, Stringer started every game at right tackle the past two seasons.

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

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

“I bought a picture of him to get signed,'' said Scott Westphal, 17, who drove up from northwest Iowa with friends to watch camp. “I wouldn't be able to ask for any autographs now. It's just not right.''

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