Aug 1, 2016; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer (left) gestures with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman (right) during a weather delay at training camp session at Minnesota State University. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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Vikings put 4 rookies on COVID-19 list; trainer tests positive

The Minnesota Vikings placed four players — including first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson — on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, hours after the club announced its trainer tested positive for the virus.

Jefferson, a wide receiver out of LSU taken No. 22 overall in April, is joined on the list by a trio fellow rookies — offensive tackle Blake Brandel, safety Brian Cole II and offensive lineman Tyler Higby. The club announced the news via Twitter.

The designation does not mean that any or all of the players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Per the Vikings’ news release:

“This new reserve list category was created for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons. If a player falls into either of these categories, their club is required to immediately place the player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Per agreed upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on player’s medical status other than referring to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19.”

Earlier in the day, the team announced trainer Eric Sugarman, charged with leading the team’s coronavirus protocols, tested positive for COVID-19.

“This weekend my family and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Sugarman said in a statement. “We immediately quarantined and began to follow the established protocols. At this time we are all doing fine and experiencing only mild symptoms.”

Sugarman is the team’s infection control officer, which the NFL has mandated for each franchise. As such, Sugarman is tasked with instituting protocols and safety measures at the team’s facilities.

The Star-Tribune’s Andrew Kramer reported that the club does not believe the rookies’ COVID-related cases and Sugarman’s positive test are related.

“I have an immense amount of pride in the effort I have personally put forth to protect the NFL family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and our community with thoughtfulness and decision-making based on the current science over these last four months,” Sugarman said.

“But as I sit here in quarantine, it is clear this virus does not discriminate. It should continue to be taken seriously.”

Vikings rookies and quarterbacks reported last week with testing for COVID-19 taking place Thursday and Sunday. Veterans are reporting to camp Tuesday.

“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,” the team said. “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.”

The Vikings said Sugarman would continue his role of infection control officer virtually.

According to a list released by SI’s Albert Breer, 18 players around the league have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list thus far, including Tampa Bay rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (a third-round pick) and Jacksonville rookie cornerback Luq Barcoo, who reportedly received the largest guaranteed contract by an undrafted rookie at $160,000.

On Monday, five NFL players voluntarily opted out of playing in the 2020 season due to the pandemic: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas, New England Patriots fullback Danny Vitale, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady, Seattle Seahawks guard Chance Warmack and Washington Football Team defensive end Caleb Brantley.

Brantley’s case was deemed “higher-risk,” so he will receive a $350,000 stipend for this year that won’t count against future earning, and he will be credited with a year of service time. The others will get a $150,000 salary advance, and their contracts will toll.

Before Monday, the only NFL player to opt out playing this year was Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a medical school graduate.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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