The Minnesota Vikings were just dealt a serious blow to their staff a day before training camp.
The team’s lead trainer and recently appointed infection control officer Eric Sugarman tested positive to coronavirus, the Vikings announced on Monday.
“It is clear this virus does not discriminate,” Sugarman said in a statement. “It should continue to be taken seriously. I encourage people to take the necessary precautions and follow guidelines that have been established nationally and locally.”
Sugarman oversees all health and safety protocols for the Vikings as the team will now have to adapt as veteran players are expected to report to camp on Tuesday.
Here’s the statement the Vikings released on their website:
We learned over the weekend Minnesota Vikings Head Athletic Trainer and Vice President of Sports Medicine and the team’s Infection Control Officer Eric Sugarman, along with members of his family, tested positive for COVID-19. Eric immediately shared his results with the organization and began to follow the previously established comprehensive protocol created by the NFL and national and local health experts. Eric and his family are currently in self-quarantine and providing daily updates on their well-being.
We have followed the team’s protocol for sanitizing the facility and for notifying any personnel who may have been in close contact with Eric. Those individuals have been tested and are returning under the established guidelines. Eric has not had recent contact with players, and no additional cases within the Vikings front office have been identified at this time.
Rookies, quarterbacks and other players reported to training camp last Thursday.
Sugarman will continue to fulfill as many of the tasks his job requires virtually and is expected to return to the team “after following proper protocols.”
As of Monday morning, the Vikings were one of 12 teams whose Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan was still under review by the NFL Players Association, per the Star Tribune.
Several players are expected to be placed on the NFL’s reserve COVID-19 list, although none have been in contact with Sugarman, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported.
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Sugarman’s Concerns Proved True
Sugarman and the Vikings efforts to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 were featured a week ago in NBC Sports Peter King’s Football Morning in America column. King took an extensive tour of TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., with Sugarman as his guide.
The Vikings training facilities is one of the NFL’s most modern facilities and has more space and resources than many training camps around the NFL. King went to the lengths of saying he’d “eat off the floor” at the Vikings training camp, a testament to Sugarman and his staff’s work in keeping a sterile environment.
But the concern that could make or break a team this season is what players and staff do outside of the facility.
“We know that our building is going to be sterile,” Sugarman said. “I’m going to go home at the end of the night… I’m going to see my children and my wife. Players are going to go out to a restaurant… and then bring that back into our building. We all have a responsibility… to do the right thing this season to protect each other and the only way we accomplish that is through education and it’s going to be critical that all clubs do that.”
Sugarman’s news comes on the same day that at least 14 Florida Marlins players have tested positive for coronavirus as many of the country’s professional sports leagues are grappling with the trials of continuing their seasons.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.