By ANDRES YBARRA, Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings forced lineman Korey Stringer to practice the day after he fell ill at training camp and didn't attend to him fast enough when he was stricken a second time, his family says in a $100 million lawsuit announced Tuesday.
Stringer, a 335-pound offensive tackle, died Aug. 1 of complications from heatstroke. His body temperature was at 108.8 degrees when he arrived at a Mankato hospital 15 hours before his death.
In their lawsuit, the Stringer family contends that on July 30, the first day of training camp, then-offensive line coach Mike Tice called the 27-year-old player a "big baby" for struggling in the summer heat.
It also says that on July 31, Tice taunted Stringer by showing him a newspaper photo of Stringer doubling over and gasping for breath.
Stringer's widow, Kelci Stringer, said the purpose of the lawsuit mainly is to get answers from the Vikings about how he died.
"The biggest issue here is 'Why is Korey dead?' Not why (owner) Red (McCombs) won't treat me nice," she said at a news conference, wearing a gold football-shaped pin with her husband's number, 77.
"Korey Stringer's heatstroke and his death were utterly and entirely preventable," the complaint said. "Had those responsible for his safety and care, including defendants, exercised even a slight amount of care in carrying out their personal duties to Korey, his illnesses and his death could and would have been avoided."
Tice, now the team's head coach, said in a statement through the Vikings he was "hurt and disappointed."
"Everybody who knows me knows how much I loved Korey Stringer," he said. "The facts in the complaint about me are simply untrue, and the rest of the allegations unjustly criticize other members of our team who cared for Korey very much."
Vikings executive vice president Mike Kelly also said the lawsuit's "facts are incorrect." And he disputed Kelci Stringer's contention that the team has been noncommunicative about the circumstances of her husband's death.
"It isn't as if we've been fending off phone calls from the agent or the lawyers," Kelly said. "We have actually received no communication from the family except through press conferences."
In November, state occupational safety officials said the Vikings violated no health or safety guidelines in Stringer's death and had provided satisfactory training about heat-stress hazards as required by state law to players, coaches and trainers.
The suit in Hennepin County District Court names as defendants the Vikings; then-coach Dennis Green; Tice; trainer Fred Zamberletti; head trainer Chuck Barta; Dr. W. David Knowles of the Mankato Clinic, who was in charge of medical care on the field at the time; and the Mankato Clinic.
Kelci Stringer; their son, Kodie Stringer; and the player's parents, James and Cathy Stringer, are the plaintiffs.
Gould announced plans for the lawsuit in November, but Kelci Stringer preferred it not be filed until after the season to avoid distracting players.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)