Vikings practice as state investigates death

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

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.

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.

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.''

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.''

Safety carted off with injury

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars safety Craig Miller was strapped onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital Thursday after injuring his neck while making a tackle during practice.

X-rays on Miller's neck were negative. He was scheduled for more tests Thursday night.

Jaguars officials said Miller, a second-year veteran from Utah State, never lost consciousness or feeling in his extremities.

''He had some pain down his back, not much pain in the arms,'' coach Tom Coughlin said. ''But the concern was at the base of the helmet.''

The Jaguars were in an 11-on-11 drill, wearing shoulder pads and shorts, when Miller ducked his head to tackle running back Elvis Joseph. Joseph's helmet hit Miller's shoulder at a strange angle. Miller immediately dropped to the ground and let out a groan.

He didn't move, and trainers quickly went after a stretcher while an ambulance drove onto the field. It took about 10 minutes to stabilize Miller's neck. Then, he was lifted into the ambulance -- breathing slowly and heavily, arms folded across his chest, eyes closed -- and taken to the emergency room.

Giants RB Barber breaks left hand in practice

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Halfback Tiki Barber, the offensive catalyst for the NFC champion New York Giants, broke his left hand in practice Thursday and probably won't play in any of the team's preseason games.

''The main thing for me is I want to be ready for Monday night when we play Denver,'' Barber said of the Giants' season opener against the Broncos on Sept. 10.

''If it's not my wheels, it's OK. If it's not my feet, it's OK. I'm not someone to sit out because of pain.''

Barber, who rushed for a career-best 1,006 yards last season, was hurt early in the afternoon practice on a run up the middle during a 9-on-7 drill.

''I'm not sure how it happened,'' said Barber, who emerged from the locker room with his hand wrapped in an elastic bandage, his pinky and ring fingers taped together.

''I think I got a helmet,'' the five-year veteran said. ''I don't know if anything else could have caused it.''

Doctors told Barber he broke his fifth metacarpal, which he said was not a major bone.

Boxers usually break that bone but Barber said the location of his injury is closer to the wrist than the knuckle.

''I just popped it back,'' Barber said.

Barber will be taken to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City on Friday to be examined by Dr. Robert Hotchkiss, a hand specialist, and Dr. Russell Warren, the team's orthopedic surgeon.

The hand will either be placed in a splint or a pin will be surgically inserted.

Barber expects to return to practice in two weeks, although he said the timetable might be pushed back a week if surgery is performed. He said the bone was unstable.

''I will be back out doing things long before the season opener,'' Barber said. ''I won't play in preseason because (head coach Jim) Fassel will error on the side of caution.''

The Giants are now very thin at running back with Barber sidelined, Joe Montgomery out for the season with an Achilles' tendon and Sean Bennett sidelined with a hamstring after missing all of last season with a knee injury. That leaves Ron Dayne to carry the load with Damon Washington in reserve. Washington has never carried in an NFL game.

Barber said his conditioning and timing will not suffer.

''I'm actually relieved it happened now,'' Barber said. ''If it happened in Week 13 or 14 (of the regular season), I would be playing three weeks with a broken hand. Right now I can afford to miss some time.''

Barber has a high tolerance for pain. He broke his left forearm in the next to last game of the regular season and still played in the regular-season finale and three playoff games. He also broke a thumb last season but didn't miss any time.

Barber also caught 70 passes for 719 yards and returned 39 punts for 332 yards last season. He scored a team-high nine touchdowns. He also set a team record with 2,089 all-purpose yards.

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