Lineman’s death doesn’t change the way Vikings’ operating camp, Crawford says
A week after the tragic death of 335-pound offensive lineman Korey Stringer, training camp hasn’t softened for the Minnesota Vikings.
“Today was the worst it’s been. There’s no point in even taking a shower. You can shower and go outside and you’re pretty much sweating up another shower,” said George Whittell High grad Mike Crawford, who is striving to make the Vikings as a linebacker and special teams player. “When it’s 100 degrees outside and the heat index is 130 we work out in full gear and we’re lifting weights outside in the heat. But there’s always been Gatorade and water around for everyone and it’s plentiful.”
The 27-year-old Stringer died last Wednesday 15 hours after collapsing from heat exhaustion at the team’s practice facility in Mankato, Minn. Stringer vomited three times during the morning conditioning drills and later retreated to an air-conditioned trailer where he lost consciousness. When he was transported to the hospital his body temperature was 108 degrees and his vital organs had already shut down.
After learning of Stringer’s sudden death, the Vikings canceled practice and team meetings for the day. Since then, Crawford hasn’t noticed any changes in the way the Vikings are operating their 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. training camp.
“You have to elevate your intake of fluids when the temperature and humidity elevates. I always drink a lot of water, so it’s normal for me,” Crawford said. “The heat has been tremendous, but being in Miami definitely prepared me for that.”
Crawford, a first-year Viking who made it through two camps with the Dolphins in 1997-98, barely knew Stringer.
“Maybe I said hi or one or two phrases to him,” Crawford said. “It’s a two-way thing for me. In one aspect I didn’t get to know the awesome person that has brightened everyone’s life. It would have been cool to have known him, but it would have hurt more.”
The former All-Big West defensive player from Nevada is one of 11 linebackers the Vikings have in camp. While the excessive heat is annoying, learning a new position – whale backer – is causing most of Crawford’s discomfort.
“I’m learning the defense; it’s a different kind of scheme,” Crawford said. “They don’t really start over like other places I’ve been. They’re being patient because everyone is making mistakes. But I pick up things pretty fast so it’s probably minimized my exceeding amount of mistakes.”
The new position places Crawford on the periphery of the defense, forcing him to occasionally cover fleet-footed receivers like Randy Moss.
“I can pretty much shut him down when I want to,” Crawford joshed.
Crawford will have an opportunity to show how much he’s learned when the Vikings open their preseason slate against New Orleans on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Crawford said. “I’m going to strap it up, fly around, smack some people and have some fun.
“I’m going to do all I can to make it happen.”
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