In her first interview since the death of her husband, the widow of Minnesota Viking offensive tackle Korey Stringer said the club should have taken more precautions to protect players from the sweltering heat of training camp.
"You already have these players away from their families for two or three weeks," Kelci Stringer said Friday on NBC's "Today" show. "It won't inconvenience you any more to change practice times to either early in the morning or late at night.
"I just think in times like this, you can't take anything for granted, regardless if you expect it to happen or not. You just have to be exceptionally aware of what's going on with your players and everyone out there on that field."
Korey Stringer died of heatstroke complications Aug. 1 after the second day of training camp. Despite attempts to cool him, he was unconscious with a body temperature of 108.8 degrees when he reached the hospital in Mankato.
By the time she had been contacted and made the two-hour drive south from their home in Minneapolis, Kelci Stringer was unable to see her husband alive.
"I went upstairs (at the hospital) and all the coaches were around," she said. I asked if he was OK. They told me, 'We lost him.' At that moment, I just kept saying, 'This is not real. This is not real.' But something else inside of me kept saying, 'This is real. This is real.'
"I took a short walk down the hall, turned around and went in and saw him. And from that moment on, I've had a peace about myself that I just can't explain. For the first time, I realized this was something I have no control of and I just have to accept it."
Findings of Stringer's autopsy were divulged Thursday by his agent, James Gould, and showed the player had normal toxicological levels at the time of his death and no preexisting conditions that might have caused problems. He underwent a standard physical examination the day before camp began and reported at 335 pounds, the lightest he had been as a pro.
"Through the whole off-season, he and I both had been eating very well," Kelci said. "I had been cooking a lot different than I had been in the past, just for my health, and he followed suit. He didn't have a rapid weight loss or anything. It was actually very timely, as it is every year. About a month before camp starts, he always slims down a little by eating a little less and doing a little more activity. So I had not known of any problems he was having or any complaints about his body."
She said her husband typically got a "queasy stomach from nerves" on the first day of training camp, and his goal this year was to make it through the first day without getting sick. He vomited at least three times, however.
In a phone call with his wife the night before he died, he complained about excessive sweating and an inability to keep down water. He also lingered on the phone with her, frequently telling her he loved her.
Kelci said she draws strength from her faith and the couple's 3-year-old son, Kodey.
She was asked if she feels the Viking trainers and coaches were oblivious to the fact her husband was having problems.
"I don't think anything was intentional," she said. "You have over 100 guys out there trying to get a job, and they're hot too. But I just summed it up as, it's like if you have a friend and you're in the car. You make a wrong turn and have an accident and your friend dies. ... (You) hurt and feel guilty even though it wasn't your fault."
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