Sapp another reminder of heat dangers

Cornerback Benny Sapp's bout with heat-related complications at the start of training camp resulted in a hospital stay and a reminder of the dangers of heat during summer football practices. But Sapp wasn't about to think twice about returning to a sport he loves.

If the 10th anniversary of Korey Stringer's death isn't reminder enough of the dangers of football players practicing in the heat of summer, the Vikings had another warning on opening weekend of training camp when cornerback Benny Sapp ended up in the hospital with heat-related complications.

Sapp returned to practice on Saturday, one week later, but not before he had some time to reflect on football, his career and the precautions every football player needs to take during sweltering weather conditions.

"It was a scary experience for me, but it also brought me a little bit closer to the man upstairs and get a chance to evaluate myself," Sapp said. "I got a chance to think about a lot of things and coming back just wanting to be the best."

The Vikings were cautious with Sapp's return to the field and have been part of an NFL study the last two years in which players ingest pills that monitor their core body temperature and other vital signs.

"There's numbers of guys that are swallowing these pills that measure core temperature, heart rate, respiration and stuff. You see guys walking up with a monitor behind them so we can really tell how fast they're going. We're vigilant about the heat," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "They sit in their rooms, it's something they can look at themselves. It's like having a gas tank topped off. It's something they can take care of. We've got a crew of guys that check the specific gravity of their urine. … They're trying to get it as close to as watered down as they can.

"Still, it can happen in a hell of a hurry when these guys lose a ton of fluids. So we slowed the tempo down (Monday). We took hats off (in the) afternoon."

The Vikings shortened their morning practice by about 25 minutes off the scheduled two hours and 15 minutes, and helmets were shed during their hour-long afternoon practice when they went to full-team work.

Despite all the precautions taken on Monday, Sapp had his health get away from him nine days earlier when he became dehydrated. He said he spent his time in the hospital reflecting on the situation.

"Most definitely. Just about discipline, just being disciplined, especially my situation – hydrating, eating, drinking, doing all the responsible things," Sapp said. "I'm just happy to be out here and practicing with my teammates. It's no big deal though. It wasn't nothing that serious. But like I said, man, I love football and I'll die trying."

It was a credo Sapp repeated in a short interview, even after a practice on a day when the temperatures reached 88 degrees and the heat index was supposed to reach 108.

"Football is all I know, man. I (have done) everything I wanted to do in life and football was the ultimate thing, so if I die playing football, it's fine with me. It's fine with me," he said.

Sapp said his conditioning entering camp wasn't an issue, but he has struggled with cramps and exhaustion before. This camp was just more severe for him.

"It could have been a number of things. I was in Florida the whole time training in the hot sun," he said. "… I remember days being very exhausted, cramping. It could have been a number of things that built up to that point, and then initial reaction to my body and this camp and pads and everything – all of my life it's always been like that, kind of. It just hit me a little bit worse this time than it ever did before."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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