NFLer's death hits home

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

When another one of their own bites the dust, the entire brotherhood of offensive linemen shudders.

San Francisco's Thomas Herrion was the latest O-lineman to die of undetermined causes after exerting his 6-foot-3, 310-pound body on the football field during an NFL exhibition game last Saturday. Just a few years ago, Minnesota offensive lineman Korey Stringer died due to heat-related causes.

"There's definitely a concern," veteran Winnipeg guard Matt Sheridan said yesterday. "As big guys, the extreme heat and humidity does have more of a toll on us when we're out there and doing the kind of exertion we are.

"Our coaching staff and our training staff are very, very conscientious of that and are on top of things, and make sure that we stay hydrated."

CLOSE EYE ON WEATHER

Sheridan is the biggest Bomber starter, listed at 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, and keeps a close eye on weather forecasts.

"We know what the circumstances are going to be like in Hamilton (on Friday)," he said, referring to where the Bombers play next. "They're calling for 34 degrees with 90% humidity so, at this point, we're really pushing the water into us to make sure we can stay healthy throughout the whole game without cramping or, God forbid, anything worse."

Sheridan has never witnessed anything worse in either college or pro.

"Hopefully, I never will," he said. "It's part of our jobs to stay in shape, know how our bodies work and make sure that we are properly fed and are properly hydrated to go out there and perform.

"Unfortunately, it's been a few circumstances where big guys have ended up dying from it (heat) so, these incidents have definitely brought it to the forefront of people's concerns about athletes and athletics and the heat and humidity and stuff."

Bomber tackle Dan Goodspeed was in the NFL when Stringer died.

"And that was scary enough," said Goodspeed, listed at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds. "I saw a couple of plays during the highlights and (Herrion) was doing fine. Then, during the team prayer, he just kind of goes down. That's another scary thing, especially for an O-lineman. I guess you never know.

"They always say that tomorrow's not promised and I guess not. But there are a lot of eye-opening things that makes you appreciate your family more every day."

But no pro expects to die on the field.

"In the last few years, there were some shocking situations like that and it stuns anyone involved in the sport," said Bomber head coach Jim Daley.

"He was a young man and to see a tragedy like that is very, very upsetting and it does concern anybody involved in this sport."

Daley, however, is certain that the 49ers trainers do everything possible to prevent such tragedies from occurring, just like the Bombers do.

"The reality is that you can take every degree of preparation to provide for the safety for your people as you can and sometimes, a tragedy will occur despite it," he said.

Apparently, the NFL is now experimenting with ways to cool players down during games.

"I saw something on TV a couple of months ago where they have developed this system for football players where they have tubing running throughout your pads," Sheridan said. "When you sit down on the bench, they plug you in and there's coolant running through your shoulder pads and it cools your core body temperature down."

That would be worth whatever it costs if it saves lives.


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