Stringer collapsed and eventually died on the second day of the Vikings training camp last July 31 after his body temperature soared above 108 degrees while working out at Mankato State College in Minnesota. Stringer's wife subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Vikings and others, claiming irresponsibility in the handling of her husband's health.
Stringer's death sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, the reverberations being felt across the country. At the annual owners' meetings in March, the league's management council and the players' association put on a presentation to educate coaches and trainers on the risks of heat-related health problems. The issue was addressed again at the coaches symposium in Houston last May.
''We are very well educated on hydration,'' said Oakland head coach Bill Callahan, ''on the heat issues, what to look for, the alert signs to look for in a player who has reached that point where there is some concern.''
The Raiders are taking steps to prevent heat-related problems. Though they have been scheduled for a 2 1/2-hour workout each morning, Callahan has cut practices off after 90 minutes in the morning. They go another two hours in the afternoon when the heat is a little more apparent, though so far the weather has been a willing partner in the team's efforts to beat the heat. Clouds have filled the sky during the mornings, and after afternoon clearings, the temperatures have remained in the low 80s.
Oakland is also rotating players on and off the field during scrimmages, both in an effort to take a look at as much talent as possible, but also to keep players from getting overworked in the early stages of camp.
''Guys have really been conscious about over-exterting guys, (other) guys getting in there so you're not in there for 10-12 reps at a time,'' said right tackle Lincoln Kennedy,. ''On top of that with the type of practice that we've had, you notice were not out there for 3, 3 1/2 hours or anything like that, so it's been relatively good to keep us fresh as possible. I think Callahan's really made a conscious effort, especially this year, to sort of make a difference and not wear you out and not run you down.
''It' something that probably went unnoticed for so long that people just never really took it to heart. But what you have to understand is that as players, we don't necessarily like to sit down. So it kind of goes both ways. It's the responsibility of the coaches as well as the responsibility of the players. You have to know when you're tired or when you can't push yourself anymore, you just have to stop.And when it comes to big men, especially offensive linemen, we're so used to playing with things that are bothering us, playing in pain. There's some times I know I've played where you feel like you can't breathe or you can barely breathe or your chest is sort of tightening (and) you just try to push through.''
Pushing through is apparently what precipiated Stringer's death. Though the case is locked up in the courts, there is ample evidence that Stringer was trying to coax every last bit of effort he could to stay on the practice field that tragic day. It wasn't until he collapsed on the field and had to be taken to a cooling room that the Vikings say they became aware of the seriousness of the situation. Stringer was eventually taken to a nearby hospital but never regained consciousness and died a short time later.
Kennedy, who reported to camp at 345 pounds, 10 more than his playing weight, said he has taken more precaution in the offseason to minimize the risk of serious health problems in camp.
''I used to do everything I could humanly possibly do to try to get down and beat that scale,'' said Kennedy. ''Over the last couple of years I've made an effort to control it and control my weight, preventing my weight from getting outrageous. But at the same point I haven't overexterted myself to where I wear the plastic tops, where I dehydrate myself, where I don't drink water or liquids, don't eat meals and stuff like that ... If (the weight) comes down one pound a day, if it doesn't move one pound a day, I'm not worrying myself about it like I've done in years past.''
Cornerback Charles Woodson is petitioning the NFL to allow him to wear jersey No. 2, the same number he wore while winning the Heisman Trophy playing at the University of Michigan. The league currently allows only quarterbacks and kickers to wear single-digit numbers on their uniforms. In the only other case in which an active player is being allowed to wear a jersey number outside of the restrictions placed by the NFL, Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson spots No. 19 while all other receivers have numbers in the 80s. Meanwhile, on the field Woodson had a hand in the play of the day. During afternoon scrimmages, Woodson dove in front of a Rich Gannon pass just before the ball hit the ground and tipped it into the air. Linebacker Eric Barton snatched the ball out of the air for an interception and returned it around right end ... Veteran Mike Jones has a long hill to climb to earn himself a spot on the 53-man roster but he helped his case Saturday with a leaping interception of a Rick Mirer pass ... Oakland is spending a good deal of time in scrimmages working offensively on a variety of screen passes, which could be a big asset if the Raiders have troubles in short-yardage situations ... Wide receiver Jerry Porter outran the coverage and made a nice play to haul in a 25-yard pass from Marques Tuiasosopo, who had to stave off a heavy blitz from the defense to get the ball away ... At his current pace and only if Jerry Rice were to stop playing today, Raiders wide receiver James Jett would have to play another 36 years to catch Rice's career total for reception yardage. Jett would need an additional nine years to match Rice's reception total and another nine on top of that to equal his touchdown total. Thus Jett would have to play until he's 86 years old to put up comparable stats to the greatest wide receiver ever to play ... Rick Mirer has found respect hard to come by during his nine years in the NFL and it's no easier in Oakland. Walking from the practice fields to his hotel room, Mirer strode past a group of overzelous television reporters and cameramen, who wheeled in unison and started walking in Mirer's direction hopeful of an interview with a star player. Once they realized it was Mirer, the throng of reporters stopped in mid-stride and walked the other way.
Running back Tyrone Wheatley's return to the practice field is uncertain due to his calf injury. Head coach Bill Callahan said Wheatley is likely to be sidelined for at least the next few days. Though he didn't practice on the field, Wheatley did take part in the team weight-lifting session following the morning workout ... Running back Randy Jordan, who two years ago had to be taken away from training camp by ambulance after a collision with linebacker Travian Smith, gave the team another scare Saturday when he collapsed facedown on the turf during a morning scrimmage. Jordan lay motionless temporarily before being helped to his feet and limping away ... Kennedy was limping slightly following the morning workouts, though it had more to do with his footwear than anything else. ''Yesterday I had a bad pair of shoes on, Nike's new shoes, just horrible and they were hurting my feet,'' said Kennedy. ''(It's) a little bit of a setback and I'm still recovering from it today.'' ...Safety Calvin Branch has been placed on the NFL's non-football-related-injury list. Branch tore the ACL in his knee while playing in NFL Europe, but because the injury didn't happen in the NFL, the league looks at it as a non-football injury. Which begs the question, does this mean that the NFL looks at NFL Europe as non-football?
QUOTE OF THE DAY''I laugh at it. It's funny but at the same time I'm at a point I just want to win. I don't care how old we are.'' -- Lincoln Kennedy, disputing allegations that the Raiders are an old team.