EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- The wife of Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Lewis Kelly died of pregnancy complications, the second consecutive year of preseason tragedy for the team.
Rakiva Kelly, 24, was four months pregnant, tight end Byron Chamberlain said. Chamberlain and coach Mike Tice were with Kelly when his wife died just before midnight Sunday at Methodist Hospital in nearby St. Louis Park.
"We had a tremendous tragedy," Tice said Monday. "Right now we're reeling a little bit as a family. We'll battle our way through it ... and we will all pick up the slack for Lewis Kelly."
Chamberlain, whose wife was a close friend of Rakiva Kelly's, said her heart stopped suddenly.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's office said an autopsy showed Kelly died of a blood disorder. She had a preexisting condition called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which can be exacerbated by pregnancy and is characterized by low blood platelets and a low red blow cell count.
A spokesman for Methodist Hospital declined comment, citing patient confidentiality agreements. Maurice Martin, an agent for Kelly, said the family had no immediate comment. Jonathan Feinsod, another agent for the player, said Kelly hopes to return to practice next week and play in the Sept. 8 season opener against Chicago in Champaign, Ill.
"He's taking it as well as he can," Chamberlain said of Lewis Kelly. "It's the hardest thing for a man to go through in life. Everything was looking up in his personal life and for the team."
Kelly, in his third season since being drafted in the seventh round out of South Carolina State in 2000, had stepped in at left tackle in lieu of rookie Bryant McKinnie -- the Vikings' first-round pick this year who is holding out.
Kelly, whose stock went up with a strong performance in NFL Europe this year, has been hampered by quadriceps and calf strains during training camp but got his first start of the preseason in Minnesota's 14-10 victory over Tennessee and played well.
"He's growing up right in front or your eyes, right in front of mine," Tice said after Friday's game. "We're real, real proud of Lewis Kelly."
The Vikings' linemen have endured some tough times over the last year, starting with Korey Stringer's heatstroke death in training camp last season.
"It was almost like deja vu," said right tackle Chris Liwienski, Stringer's replacement last year whose locker room stall is next to Kelly's.
"Mike told me this morning as soon as I walked in," Liwienski said. "Some of the same feelings I had when I found out about Korey were brought to the surface. Right now, there's not a whole lot we can do, except be there for support. Just send flowers and keep him in our prayers."
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