EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - The start of training camp marked another difficult day at TCO Performance Center for the Vikings. Many teams talk about being a family, but it seems the Vikings - especially lately - have had to prove that. It’s a fine line to honor the passing of Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano and also get ready for training camp.
Wednesday, training camp opened with rookies walking through and having practice. Quarterback Kirk Cousins even stepped in, lending a hand during the morning drills. However, a noticeable hole was left on the offensive line without Sparano, who passed away unexpectedly over the weekend from heart disease. Assistant Offensive Line Coach Andy Janocko stepped in for his colleague on the emotional day.
“Tony was such a critical part of our success,” said Spielman. “Not only as a football coach, but what he stood for as a man. All the tweets and all the condolences that came out in the media that the fans and everybody understands that what a special person and what Tony meant to everybody that he touched.”
“We’d been together for quite awhile, so we had quite a relationship, you know his wife Jeanette is – I told her the other day, she reminds me a lot of my wife. She’s the sweetest lady ever. But - sorry...” said Zimmer, holding back tears. “He was a good football coach. A good man. You know, loved his grandkids. So, we’re all really fortunate to get a chance to be around him. Everybody, all the players, unfortunately time came too short.”
The Vikings also have grief counselors on hand for staff and the players.