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Minnesota Vikings Address Death of Korey Stringer

Aired August 1, 2001 - 12:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Combining the heat and high humidity can be deadly. Early this morning, Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer died of complications from heat stroke. His doctors and his coaches are having a press conference right now.

Let's go there live.


DENNIS GREEN, MINNESOTA VIKINGS HEAD COACH: ... been at the high school virtually since then.

We had the coaches wake up the players this morning to tell them. So the position coach woke up his player and let him know that Korey Stringer passed away. We did that at 6:00. We then had a morning prayer. And at that morning prayer, and Reverend Keith Johnson, our chaplain, presided over it.

And I think some of the guys had a chance to talk about -- about their feelings and emotions for Korey. I think the other thing would be this whole idea of how important it is for us as a family -- the football team, it's 82 of us. And we've got maybe 140 people here in training camp -- how important it is for us to give all the strength, comfort and love that we can to Kelci and their son, to Korey's mother and father, and to Kelci's mother and father. And that's really the only reason why we are here.

We just think it's important for the public to know that our loss is also their loss, because a lot of not just Viking fans and not just football fans, but people throughout the country recognize the tragedy that has taken place.

I am going to let Randy and Cris here, representing the team -- let Randy say a few words, let Cris say a few words. And then if there's any questions that I can answer, I will try to do that.

RANDY MOSS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS PLAYER: I really don't even know where to start. It's like he was here today, gone tomorrow. And I think the reason why it's hard for me is just because the only thing I've been thinking about for the last 24 hours was: If he does die, what is going to happen to his son?

And I don't know how many people are thinking like me or what not. But I don't even know how and when I'm going to get over this, because it's hard. There's a lot of people here in America that's feeling our pain -- throughout the world. And we know Korey Stringer, No. 77, is going to be missed, running through the tunnel on game day, having his number called -- after the game, seeing his wife and son in the lounge.

CRIS CARTER, MINNESOTA VIKINGS PLAYER: This is extremely difficult on Korey's family and our football family. We -- we really don't understand.

We -- I mean, it's a shock. We thought that everything was going to change. We've had people at the hospital with him. From the time he got there yesterday, 12:00, we had it circulating of players. And Coach Green and myself, Randy, we were there all through the night. There were several of us there last night when he passed away.

There's nothing you go through in life that prepares you for something like this. It's extremely unfortunate. It's far greater than any football -- I mean, the amount of hurt that we have as a team is -- I mean, truly we are devastated. It -- there's not a more well- liked player on our football team. There's not a player that anyone enjoys spending more time with than Korey.

I mean, his sense of humor, his ability to be projected as being overweight most of his -- the beginning of his career, and last year making the Pro Bowl -- and so excited -- he came to training camp his lowest weight that he's had since being at Ohio State, and all those things that -- a true pro's pro who was trying to get better. And he -- I don't understand.

And we'll try to answer as many questions as we can, because there's a lot of things that we don't understand. We do understand that the Vikings' family, the McCombs, all the way down to the ball boys, everyone is grieving. I mean, we are shocked. And as we stayed with him all day yesterday -- and the people at the hospital, they did the most unbelievable job to try to recapture his life. And there's just certain forces of nature you just can't change.

And we were able to see that. And we never thought that he would die, though. We knew it was critical. We knew the facts. We knew what his body was saying. But we all had faith that this is something, he was going to walk out of it. But that wasn't the case here.

We are going to take questions, especially more pertaining to Korey than -- I know everyone is going to talk about the heat. It's hot everywhere. That's why they call it the dog days of summer. You have to realize, too, that everything in life, there is no explanation for. There's certain things we just cannot explain to you.

As far as what was the weather, things like that, we are not going to go into that, because we still had another 79 players out there on the field. So we are just not going to go into that. But if there are questions, we will take those questions now.



CARTER: Well, for me, I just remember him making me laugh. I remember, his locker was next to mine on game days. And I remember him always telling me, "Hey, old man, let's see if we can take that old car around the track one more time."

I mean, there are so many little things that you -- that you go through. I remember after the Atlanta game, we lost. I remember him being there just holding me. I remember him bringing his little boy to the facility and playing catch with him. There's so many little things.

QUESTION: Cris, (OFF-MIKE) talk about how difficult it is going to be to go on. Can you talk about how, for yourself, in terms of the professional aspects of how you deal with this, the combination with (OFF-MIKE)

CARTER: Well, the one thing that we are trying to do as a family is to say we are going to go on together, that no person has to do this by themselves. We're trying to be understanding of everyone has a different grieving process.

And we are professionals. It is going to be very, very tough. I -- you know, we talked last night, some leaders of the team, and some of the things that we might try to do. But...

GREEN: You know, right now, our focus is totally on Korey and his family, his wife Kelci and his son Kodie, the Stringer family. That's totally where our focus is. We know that we have got to play football. And we think we have a football team that knows how to do that.

But that is not on our minds right now. I don't think it's on the minds of the fans around the world who have loved the Minnesota Vikings. I think what they recognize is that we have lost a young man, 27 years old. And we are going to miss him.

QUESTION: Talk about how Korey has grown as both a man and a leader.

GREEN: Keep in mind that Korey started every game that he came here. He missed maybe two games. I don't know the number, but maybe three.

What Korey did at Bancroft Elementary School, what Korey did last year -- we had 1,000 kids after getting back at 2:00 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving. And we called it "A Reason to be Thankful." And it had nothing to do with whether or not we were going to win the game or not, because we planned it two weeks in advance. It had to do with Randy and Cris and Daunte and Korey's willingness to give back to young people.

And that's what makes him a complete man: the respect, as Cris mentioned, that everybody loved, respected and admired Korey.

Yes? QUESTION: Coach Green, I understand you don't want to talk about the weather yesterday, but can you just share generally with us what happens when the heat gets so oppressive?

GREEN: Like I said, we are not -- we are focused on the situation that we find ourselves in right now. We really are. It's nine hours and probably 15 minutes. And the reason we're here right now in that period of time is because we have 81 football players that are here.

It's not like they're at home for the summer. They are here. They came here to be a team, to have a clear-cut goal. And now we've -- we've lost one of our players. And so it's important to let the public know what our loss is, because many of them will feel that same loss. They don't know Korey as well. But they like the Minnesota Vikings. And losing Korey Stringer means it's their loss too.



GREEN: From the time Korey got here -- you know, he's 27 years old. Korey came here as a 20-year-old young man. Most of our players are very young. Randy is only 24. Daunte is only 24. When Korey had been in the league four years, he was only 24 also.

And he could mimic the voice, action, mannerisms of anyone. And everyone took pride in thinking that he does me best. He does Randy best. He does Daunte best. He does Denny best -- meaning that that's what I would think. I don't think Big K does anybody better than he does me -- or Mike Tice, no, no, no way. Big K does me better than he does any of the other guys. That was part of his humor.

And at the same sense, when it came time to play the game of football, he was always dependable. You know, win or lose, way up or way down, things going the way we want it to go, things not going very well at all, you could always count on Korey to take that humorous side that he has and be real serious about the game of football. And that's also -- that balance that he had is what the players...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) step up and be the leader of (OFF-MIKE)

GREEN: I don't think -- I don't think that Korey thought that way. I mean, he's been an admired player because he's been a tremendous player. He went to his first Pro Bowl, with the projection of many more to follow.

He knows that everybody respects him. He knows that everybody knows he's isn't 100 percent. And we don't have just one leader on our football team. We don't have just one leader in a group. We have got a lot of tremendous guys on the offensive line. And like most teams, our offensive line is a whole group, because there is so many of them, because they come from so many walks and ways of life, because they receive so little publicity and notoriety, that they traditionally are closer as a unit because they have the most difficult physical job. They are closer as a unit, I think. And, therefore, you know, a lot of leaders come out of a group like that.

QUESTION: In the months and years ahead, when someone that you know asks you, "What was Korey Stringer like?" how do you think you might try encapsulating what he was about?

GREEN: First off, I would say I love him like a son -- and I've got two sons -- that he was a man who was always willing to give. Some of the players talked this morning; they talked about when they had some hard times and how Korey was able to lighten that load -- and we all have loads at different times -- that Korey always had a way with guys, if they were released and thought it was the end of the world...

HARRIS: We are going to cut away from this obviously very emotional press conference there being held by the Dennis Green, coach of the Vikings.



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