- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

MANKATO, Minn. Filing past bouquets and balloons left by grieving fans, the Minnesota Vikings returned to practice yesterday with hopes that football would provide comfort for a team in mourning.
The state, meanwhile, began investigating the heat stroke death of tackle Korey Stringer to determine whether the Vikings were negligent.
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.
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."
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.
Assistant coach Mike 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 yesterday's practice. "He didn't look like he needed water. He looked good on film, too. He had a fantastic practice."
Tice, a former University of Maryland quarterback, 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."
Yesterday'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 counselors on hand to talk with players. None skipped yesterday's workout.
Stringer's family, including wife Kelci and 3-year-old son Kodie, issued a statement yesterday 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."
It wasn't clear whether an autopsy would be performed. The Blue Earth County coroner wouldn't comment yesterday.
At Immanuel-St. Joseph's Mayo Health System hospital, where Stringer died and a pathologist sometimes fills in for the coroner, spokesman Kevin Burns said he knew nothing about an autopsy. In general, Burns said, if a death isn't being investigated as a criminal matter, an autopsy isn't done unless requested by family.
The Vikings canceled an intrasquad scrimmage tonight and offered ticket-holders 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 the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday.
A private funeral service was scheduled for today in Edina, Minn., followed by a public viewing.
A second public viewing will be held Sunday in Warren, Ohio, Stringer's hometown. A private funeral service and burial will take place there on Monday.

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