- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington doesn't completely remember Tuesday's morning practice. The warm, humid weather staggered Arrington more than the on-field hitting.
Just hours later, Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer died of complications from heat stroke. Despite encouraged water breaks that were nonexistent for football players until the 1980s, dehydration has become a common problem.
University of Florida freshman fullback Eraste Austin's death July 25 was the 18th high school or college fatality from heat-related illness since 1995. However, pro players were thought better protected from heat stroke because of the extensive training programs. Only St. Louis Cardinals tight end J.V. Cain has died from a heat-related illness during the preseason (1979).
Stringer, 27, left practice on a cart Monday complaining of heat-related symptoms. The 6-foot-4, 335-pounder collapsed Tuesday on the field in Mankato, Minn., amid a heat index of 110 degrees and died early yesterday at a nearby hospital.
"It's really scary to know the same day I'm feeling weak and struggling with my hydration another man in another camp passed on from it," Arrington said. "I was a little woozy, a little lackadaisical. I just felt real weak. I was kind of having blank spots. I was more or less trying to focus, trying to block all that out. We as football players take on the same mentality 'oh, he's wussing out.' It's really not about that."
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue asked teams to review their training programs following Stringer's death. However, the league doesn't dictate a uniform code. With teams training in varied weather conditions, each is permitted its own program. Washington will have 24 full pad practices during camp compared with just eight for the Baltimore Ravens in Westminster, Md.
The Redskins have come a long way since the 1970s, when players filled their helmets with ice and secretly savored ice from bags during coach George Allen's practices. Drinking water drew a fine from Allen, who believed in the one-time common notion that water weakened players. Ironically, Allen died of pneumonia on New Year's Eve 1993 after his players at Long Beach State drenched him with Gatorade following a victory.
The Redskins used 155 gallons of water during the afternoon practice alone. There were also 30 five-pound bags of ice and 10 cases of Gatorade. The team took several water breaks during both sessions. An 8-pound weight loss per man isn't unusual during practices, but the Redskins check each player's weight before and after workouts to note dangerous changes.
The Redskins haven't had a serious heat-related illness since 1987, when a strike replacement player was hospitalized.
"[Teams] are so much smarter in how we train now, and still something like [Stringer] can happen," Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer said.
Many NFL teams often use lighter pads and shorts as occasional breaks from full pads. The Redskins spent the afternoon in "shells" that were planned before Stringer's death. The late session was held during a 90-degree heat index, one degree more than during the morning workout. Schottenheimer advised players not to wear long socks or long-sleeved T-shirts that increase perspiration after ordering them to increase fluids during a Tuesday team meeting.
"I've always insisted guys drink even when they're not thirsty because you need to replenish the tank," he said. "It can happen anywhere. I don't think the level of competition has any bearing on it."
But Redskins players are like many of their NFL counterparts who often refuse to succumb to the heat for fear of being branded as soft. Running back Stephen Davis was bothered by dehydration Tuesday but tried one series of drills yesterday before resting.
"The first thing people think when somebody gets injured, is 'Oh, he's faking' or maybe it's not that serious," Arrington said. "Then it takes somebody to pass on for people to understand really important stuff like dehydration or even just being out in the heat. If somebody's not feeling well, they're not feeling well. They shouldn't be taken lightly."
Still, players conceded they can't take it easier because of the heat. After all, training camp often decides whether many players make the team or start.
"If I'm out there on the field, I'm really going to give everything I have," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. "At the same time, I'm going to be smart as far as putting fluids in my body and eating right."
Said safety Sam Shade: "I don't feel you can relax. You've got to give what you've got when you're out here."
* Staff writer Bob Cohn contributed to this report.

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