VIKINGS to try to return to normal on Tuesday

Tuesday, August 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) _ The Minnesota Vikings are trying to return to normal, although many aren't sure there can be such a thing for them again.

A group of 14 Vikings, including their biggest stars, were missing from Monday's practices to attend the funeral service for Korey Stringer in Warren, Ohio. Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper are expected back at practice, but whether they will be in the mood for football is uncertain.

Coach Dennis Green, who also attended the funeral, said last week: ``I'm an old-fashioned person. Where I come from, when someone has passed on, your world changes until they are laid to rest, and that's the way we are going to run this.''

The team leaves Thursday for San Antonio, where they have a Saturday exhibition against the New Orleans Saints.

If tragedy had never struck, the Vikings would have been scrimmaging the Kansas City Chiefs before a raucous crowd Monday.

Instead, a pall hung over the Vikings as they returned for a light practice without pads, still in mourning over the death of Stringer from heatstroke.

The stands were half-empty for a subdued practice that replaced the canceled scrimmage. There was a crowd of about 1,000 _ half the usual number. Balloons, bouquets and banners left by fans as a tribute to Stringer remained outside the training facility gates, but there was little to cheer.

Todd Bouman made a nice throw to Nate Jacquet, but it just wasn't the same as usual.

Players participated in another light practice in the afternoon, run by a committee of coaches, without pads on yet another sultry day. The temperature was 81 when practice began in the morning and soared into the high 90s in the afternoon during an hourlong special teams practice.

There were no outward signs of emotion or tribute to Stringer, who was stricken Tuesday and died early Wednesday morning. The players who remained on campus appeared sullen as they left a 35-minute memorial service.

Other players who were missing to attend the funeral in Ohio included defensive backs Robert Griffith, Orlando Thomas and Carl Kidd, linebacker Ed McDaniel, punter Mitch Berger, defensive tackle Fernando Smith and Stringer's roommate, guard David Dixon.

Offensive line coach Mike Tice, executive vice president Mike Kelly and coordinator of medical services Fred Zamberletti also attended.

The Vikings announced Monday that they will wear a No. 77 patch in Stringer's honor for the remainder of the season.

Stringer's agent, James Gould, was at the funeral and didn't return a phone call Monday to say if Stringer's family had decided whether or not to make public the results of an autopsy done the day Stringer died.

Blue Earth County medical examiner Dr. Dennis Gremel, also a pathologist at the Mankato hospital where Stringer died, conducted the autopsy. Though Minnesota law specifies that some autopsy information is public, Gremel said that since he performed the autopsy on behalf of the hospital and not as medical examiner he isn't obligated to release the results.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis filed a motion seeking to make the results public, but a hearing Monday was postponed at the newspaper's request.

The state office of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating Stringer's death, a routine practice. James Honerman, an OSHA spokesman, said the investigation will continue for more than a month, but that no one currently was on site because of the funeral.

``We have a lot of work to do,'' Honerman said. ``We have a lot of questions to ask the Vikings.''