The practice field, normally filled with players going through the paces of a morning workout, stood empty. Whirring projectors, usually flashing the right and wrong moves of rookies and veterans alike, were silent. The routine, boisterous banter exchanged among players was replaced by subsued conversations.
The familiar sights and sounds that fill a day of training camp for the St. Louis Cardinals were absent at Lindenwood College today. Football, at least momentarily, was pushed aside.
At midmorning, Big Red players, coaches and front office personnel assembled quietly in a team meeting room, where they offered their prayers for J. V. Chain -- teammate and friend. Further tests were ordered after an autopsy today failed to reveal the cause of death Sunday night of Cain, the Car:dinal starting tight end. The autopsy did show that Cain did not die not die of carpiac arrest as was earlier belived.
Cain, 6-foot-4, 221-pounds, collapsed on the practice field after running a pass pattern during a noncontact drill. He was returning to the huddle when he suddenly fell to the ground.
Team trainers John Omohundro and Jim Shearer rushed to Cain's side and were joined in moments by Dr. Bernard Garfinkel, a club physician. The three administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation until St. Charles paramedics arrived on the scene with a life-support vehicle.
Big Red players and coaches, who knelt in prayer, several carying, while Cain was being attended to, reacted joyfully when Cain semed to gain consciousness momentarily.But, just as quickly, he lost consciousness again. He was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital, where he died two hours later.
Most of the Cardinal players, still shocked by the sudden and unexplained death of Cain, asked to be left alone with their thoughts this morning. But following the prayer meeting, two of Cain's closest teammates, nose tackle Charlie Davis and running back Wayne Morris, represented the club at a press conference.
It was a difficult moment for each of them. Their voices were choked with emotion. Tears flowed faster than words.
"J.V. was a member of a special fraternity," said Davis. "Football people are all good people and J.V. exemplified a football player.
"We were all very close. I've got eight brothers and he was as close to me as any of my brothers. It was just a tremendous shock."
Cain, whose 28th birthday was Sunday, was in the midst of a comeback regarded as rare in athletics. The Cardinals' rookie of the year in 1974, Cain had suffered a torn Achilles' tendon early in training camp last year and was sidelined for the season. He underwent surgery and spent three months in a cast.
But through a persistent, patient program of rehabilitation, Cain restored his ankle to the point where doctors pronounced it stronger than ever.
During the rehabilitation period, he discovered a new-found interest in prayer and Bible reading. And last December, he married the former Jean Johnson of Webster Grove, Mo. "Jeanie has added a whole new phase to my life," he said.
At the Cardinal minicamp in May, he had talked about being All-Pro, an accomplishment that barely eluded him in 1977, when he caught 25 passes for 328 yards.
Slowly, quietly, Morris attempted to express his sentiments.
"I'd like to personally dedicate this season to J. V. because he was my friend said. . ." Morris then borke into tears and was unable to continue.
Bud Wilkinson, the Cardinal head coach, expressed shock over Cain's death.
"The tragic death of J. V. Cain defies logic and explanation," Wilkinson said.
It was the first practice or game-oriented death in the NFL since Chuck Hughes, a Detroit Lion wide receiver, died in a game Oct. 24, 1971. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Teammates gather as paramedics try to revive cardinal tight end J.V. Cain. Cain was pronounced dead. UPI; Picture 3, J.V. Cain scores touchdown against Redskins despite the guarding of Ken Houston (27). Redskins beat the Cardinals, 20-10, in the rain at RFK Stadium in the October 25, 1976, contest. By Richard Darcey -- The Washington post