EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - Football took a back seat Friday as the Sparano family, members of the Vikings organization along with current and former NFL players, coaches and executives mourned the loss of Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano.
He was a man beloved by those who worked alongside him and the players are still trying to make sense of his sudden passing. According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Sparano died of arteriosclerotic heart disease on Sunday.
“It was very tough to hear the news a few days ago of his passing and obviously we want to approach this season and this camp with a work ethic and an attention to detail that would honor him and would put a great product on the field that would reflect well on him and his family,” said Quarterback Kirk Cousins.
All week, much of the attention was on the offensive line unit. The same group of players that followed his directions, carried his casket out of the church and to those men, Sparano felt like more than just a coach.
“Tony, I mean, he's made me a better player, a better man,” said Vikings center Pat Elflein. “Took me to places that I couldn't go as a player and as a man. It wasn't just football with him. He really cared about his players, the well-being of his players and it hurts."
There's now a big void in the Vikings locker room, but the players say that even though Sparano is no longer with them, the impression he made on all of them remains.
"It's still there,” said Elflein. “You can still sense it in the room that Tony's not there, but he is. His presence is there just because of what we've taken from him last year and it's still there."
The Vikings are scheduled to resume training camp practice tomorrow at TCO Performance Center.