AUSTIN EDITION -- Stringer's memory
Tackle's death cast a pall over 2001 Vikings
was one year ago today that Korey Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings died of heatstroke.
The big offensive tackle's death at the start of training camp last season cast a pall over the Vikings the rest of the season. The team went on to stumble through a 5-11 season, its worst campaign since 1984.
As the Vikings are in the first week of camp this year, they are determined to start with a new slate and have high expectations. But they have not forgotten their fallen friend.
"I don't think we will ever forget about last year," Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss said. "It is hard to really sit here and say that we are going to move on but it's going to take a while to get over it."
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Moss took Stringer's death hard. He was very emotional when discussing the subject at times during the 2001 season. And he is still grieving over his friend.
"I think about it every day," Moss said. "Not a day goes by where I don't think about the situation or Korey at all."
There are reminders of Stringer and the tragedy not only at Vikings camp in Mankato, but at camps all over the NFL. The league mandated several training camp changes this season. All teams are required to have a doctor on hand during all practices. More water is being made available for players and the Vikings are expected to consume 200 gallons a day during two-a-day practices.
The most noticeable difference on the practice fields are the portable canopies, attached to golf carts, that offer players shade from the hot sun. Also some players wear yellow practice jerseys instead of the hotter purple ones worn in the past.
"That is something I guess we learned from a bad situation," Vikings tight end Brian Chamberlain said of the canopies. "You don't ever take your safety for granted, but things that happened last year you definitely have to adjust and learn from it. Hopefully that is one positive to come out of a bad situation."
The players were advised to take extra safety steps this year when out in the heat.
"I think we have a great training staff on this team," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said, "and they are going to do a great job of monitoring everybody, making sure if it gets hot out there that guys don't get overheated."
Defensive end Kenny Mixon said that players also have to stay on top of their physical well-being.
"You have to stay hydrated and keep yourself cool, whenever you feel dizzy or something," Mixon said. "It's a common-sense thing. Take care or your body and listen to what your body is saying."
Mixon is one of many new faces in Vikings camp this year. After last year's dismal showing, the Vikings and first-year coach Mike Tice have 46 new players in camp this year.
Those new players never played with Korey Stringer, and most might not have even known him on a personal level. But there are reminders of Stringer. In a grassy area outside of Gage Towers, where the Vikings stay during camp, a tree has been planted in Stringer's honor. Beneath the tree is a plaque for Stringer.
The tree is located close to where many Vikings will be doing media interviews during training camp.
"I think about Korey a lot," Culpepper said. "Like I've said, he's always going to be with us. He's not here physically, but he's definitely going to be here spiritually with us."
If the Vikings dedicated the 2001 season to Stringer, they didn't do a very good job. This year, with a new supporting cast and a little more removed from the tragedy, they should have more success.
"We still have flashes and still reminisce on the good times and also the bad times," Moss said, "but of course, we are going to move on and try to win."
Guy N. Limbeck is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. His column runs every Thursday. He can be reached at email@example.com