Stringer's death rocks football world
By Gary Mihoces and Larry Weisman, USA TODAY
MANKATO, Minn. -- Grief shattered the National Football League's training camp routine Wednesday when one of the league's top players died about 15 hours after working out in the withering heat of a Minnesota morning. Players, coaches and fans awoke to the news that Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl offensive lineman Korey Stringer, described by Vikings coach Dennis Green as "a brother, a teammate and a friend," had died. Stringer, 27, stood 6-4 and weighed at least 330 pounds. He was rushed to Immanuel St. Joseph's Hospital on Tuesday with what the team described as "complications from heatstroke." Stringer is survived by his wife, Kelci, and his 3-year-old son, Kodie.
In Mankato, Minn., Vikings coaches roused players at 6 a.m. to tell them individually. They gathered to pray. Later, during a nationally televised news conference, star wide receiver Randy Moss, his cap pulled over his eyes, groped for words. Then he broke down sobbing.
"I don't know where to start," said Moss, who had been at the hospital in Mankato. "I don't even know how and when I'm going to get over this."
"All of us in the NFL family are stunned and saddened," Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement.
Said Green, "Right now our focus is totally on Korey and his family. ... We have lost a young man, 27 years old, and we're going to miss him."
Stringer's death, a week after an incoming freshman football player at the University of Florida died of what a medical examiner determined was heatstroke, renews focus on the potentially deadly combination of rugged football training and hot, humid weather.
A full report on Stringer's death is pending. Eighteen deaths from heatstroke have been reported in high school and college football since 1995, according to the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
What once was considered a problem that had been understood and managed -- the days of banning water during practice are long gone -- appears to have struck the NFL for the first time in its 82-year history.
It also raises questions. With many players, even at the high school level, weighing more than 300 pounds, are heat hazards raised? What are the responsibilities of trainers, coaches, physicians and the athletes themselves when players push themselves to the max? And how could Stringer perish amid an NFL team's professional training and medical support system?