VIKINGS coaches defend themselves as state begins investigation into lineman's death

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) _ As the state began investigating the heatstroke death of tackle Korey Stringer, coaches for the Minnesota Vikings insisted that rules and precautions have been followed during the team's practices.

``I hope that our team doesn't feel any guilt,'' head coach Dennis Green said Thursday.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pound Stringer collapsed Tuesday after an intense practice in stifling humidity and temperatures in the low 90s. He died 15 hours later.

Offensive line coach Mike Tice said Stringer showed no warning signs.

``He didn't look like he needed water,'' Tice said. ``He looked good on film, too. He had a fantastic practice.''

Longtime trainer Fred Zamberletti said Stringer, 27, walked off the field on his own after collapsing and entered an air-conditioned trailer set up as a makeshift training room on the practice field.

``He went in there, walked around in there,'' Zamberletti said. ``The kid did everything perfect. The paramedics thanked us and said they appreciated what we've done here.''

The state is investigating to determine whether the team was negligent, a standard practice for deaths that occur in the workplace.

James Honerman, a spokesman for the state 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.

Filing past bouquets and balloons left by fans, the team returned to the practice field Thursday in conditions considerably cooler than earlier in the week.

``Going on the field was hard for me,'' Tice said. ``I didn't think I could do it. Going to practice was good for us. It kept your mind on positive things.''

Tice added that Stringer was 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.''

Stringer's family, including wife Kelci and 3-year-old son Kodie, issued a statement Thursday thanking the public for support.

The Vikings canceled an intrasquad scrimmage Friday night and a scrimmage against Kansas City on Monday.