A day before Vikings veterans were scheduled to report to training camp, the team announced Monday that head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman — who is also in charge of the team’s COVID-19 prevention strategy as its infection control officer — has tested positive for the virus.
The team said in a statement that Sugarman and family members, who also tested positive for the virus over the weekend, are in self-quarantine. The Vikings tested the people who were in close contact with Sugarman, and they found no additional cases in the front office and added that no players have been in contact with Sugarman.
“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,” the Vikings said.
Sugarman had been going through regular coronavirus testing, which started last week as the Vikings prepare for training camp, but he and his family took an additional test last week that revealed the positive result.
“At this time we are all doing fine and experiencing only mild symptoms,” Sugarman said of his wife and two sons in the team’s statement.
The Vikings placed four rookies — first-round pick Justin Jefferson, sixth-rounder Blake Brandel, seventh-rounder Brian Cole and undrafted free agent Tyler Higby — on the league’s new COVID-19 reserve list, after the players were found either to have tested positive for the virus or been in close contact with someone who had.
Rookies reported Thursday and took two coronavirus tests in a four-day span before Monday’s announcement.
The NFL prohibits teams from disclosing whether a player is on the reserve list because he tested positive or had contact with a carrier of the virus, but it’s believed the four players did not come in contact with Sugarman.
“As I sit here in quarantine, it is clear this virus does not discriminate,” Sugarman said in his 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.”
His positive test result does not change the team’s plans for veterans, who remain scheduled to report Tuesday to begin a four-day period that includes three coronavirus tests before physicals begin on Saturday. The NFL Players Association approved the Vikings’ Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan Monday afternoon.
“Eric will continue to fulfill his role as the team’s ICO virtually as much as possible, and his athletic training staff and other Vikings personnel will assist where necessary,” the team said in its statement. “We wish Eric and his family a quick and full recovery and look forward to him returning to the Vikings when appropriate.’’
Jefferson, Brandel, Cole and Higby were among a group of roughly 40 players who reported Thursday as rookies, quarterbacks and players rehabbing from injury arrived at training camp.
Players who test positive for COVID-19 must stay away from the team for 10 days, including three consecutive days without symptoms. Asymptomatic players who test positive can return after five days if they pass two coronavirus tests.