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Diggs Uses Spare Time to Crash Madden Tourney

MINNEAPOLIS — There's still two months to go until the Vikings begin their voluntary offseason workout program in mid-April at Winter Park.

Count Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs among the players who are counting down the days until then. 

Diggs, who hung out at the Mall of America on Saturday for the Madden 17 Club Series Vikings Championship Challenger tournament, chatted with about his offseason so far and the anticipation of getting focused on 2017.

"Everybody is excited and ready to get back to work," Diggs said. "We've been away for a while and put a lot of new pieces together … but when we get back, I think we'll be hitting the ground running."

Diggs played in 13 games during his sophomore season, catching 84 passes for 903 yards and three scores.

The former fifth-round pick said he's already moved on from the 2016 season in which Minnesota started 5-0 but finished 8-8. Diggs said he's been working out often to prepare for the six-month grind of the NFL season.

"I like to look forward and not in the past, but in the past there were a lot of good things," Diggs said. "But I believe this year will be a better one.

"I can't stay away too long, I miss it a lot," Diggs later added. "I've been working out and getting my body back right so I can play a full 16(-game season)."

Diggs spent a few hours at the mall signing autographs and playing Madden with young fans as dozens looked on.

"It's been exciting to see all the kids and everyone come out to support," Diggs said. 

The all-day Madden tournament featured eight players who dueled in the mall's rotunda as hundreds of onlookers paused from shopping to watch games on a large video board.

Ryan Danczak took first place and won $3,500 in prize money. He advanced to the Madden Challenge, which will be held in Southern California in mid-April.

Although Danczak is a Wisconsin native, the 25-year-old is a "diehard" Vikings fan.

His allegiance showed in his roster, as he had Vikings safety Harrison Smith and defensive tackle Linval Joseph on his team.

Players are also allowed to pick up former NFL players that fit within a salary cap, so Danczak showed his Purple pride and had former Vikings safety Paul Krause and former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss on his squad.

Danczak, who has been playing Madden for 20 years, said the duo of Smith and Krause in the same secondary was the strength of his team.

Danczak has been playing Madden competitively for five years. He said he modeled his team after Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's defensive mentality.

"I really try to focus on defense, because if your offense is playing bad then you can make up for it with defense," said Danczak, who  posted a 35-7 win in the finale. "I try to confuse my opponent and disguise things … kind of like what Zimmer does.

"When you're playing the best players in the world, if you don't mix it up and they know what you're running, then you're probably going to lose," he added.

The tournament drew cheers and applause, especially during tight moments in close games.

Michael Tubman, the Sports and Competition Manager for Buffalo Wild Wings, said video game tournaments (also known as eSports) are on the rise all over the world.

The event was put on by Buffalo Wild Wings, CenturyLink and Pepsi.

"It's an emerging and growing sport," Tubman said. "We want to embrace all sports.

"If you look at eSports globally, it's hundreds of millions of people," Tubman later added.

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