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Minnesota Vikings Athletic Trainers Honored as NFL Staff of the Year by Peers

The Vikings athletic training staff was recognized this week as the Ed Block Courage Award NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year.

All 32 NFL athletic training staffs and membership of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society vote on this prestigious award.

The role of the athletic training staff goes unnoticed by most fans of the game, but plays a vital role in the health and welfare of the players and the success of the team. Long hours, thankless work and a varied skill set make the athletic training staff indispensable to any NFL club.

The Vikings have had the fortune of a talented staff and allocation of resources to give the players the best advantages available. The Vikings staff has dealt with injuries are far-ranging as a broken femur, multiple-ligament knee injuries and dislocations.


The staff's ability to heal the bodies and minds of the players and have them return to the field to continue their careers is a testament to their educations and skills as well as their demeanor and professionalism in the face of pressure and the stress of emergency situations.

The Vikings staff, led by Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman earned the award for the first time in their tenure with the Vikings, in Sugarman's 12th season with the team.

"It is always very gratifying to be honored by your peers," Sugarman said. "Because of that, we feel that it is the highest of honors. We have always taken pride in treating our players with the respect, honesty and gold standard care they deserve. To be recognized for that is very humbling for all of us.

"This is a team award," Sugarman added. "The gratitude should go to all of my assistants, and the team physicians, whom I believe are the absolute best in the business. The support of the Wilf ownership group, [General Manager] Rick Spielman, the front office and Coach [Mike] Zimmer is always unwavering. It takes a village to succeed at this job. We are fortunate to have terrific independent consultants, massage therapists, chiropractors and a nutritionist who contribute to our success."


The Vikings Athletic Training staff includes Sugarman; Tom Hunkele, Coordinator of Rehabilitation/Assistant Athletic Trainer; Rob Roche, Assistant Athletic Trainer; David Jantzi, Assistant Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist and Albert Padilla, Assistant Athletic Trainer. The staff will be recognized at the Ed Block Courage Award ceremony in Baltimore. The award is only the second in the history of the Vikings franchise. The first recognized Fred Zamberletti and Chuck Barta in 1996.

The Ed Block Courage Award for NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year is voted on by the PFATS membership and recognizes one NFL athletic training staff annually for their distinguished service to their club, community, and athletic training profession.

Block was the Head Athletic Trainer for the Baltimore Colts from 1954-1977. Block suffered a massive coronary during training camp in 1978. The players that he cared for over his career are the same players that rushed to his aid, performed CPR and saved his life that summer.

Following that incident, he continued to serve as an Athletic Trainer Emeritus with the Colts from 1979 to 1983, where continued to mentor the athletic trainers that followed. Block was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame in 1974. His tireless contributions toward the health care of the Baltimore Colts, was second to his efforts as a humanitarian. Block made significant contributions to improve the lives of children everywhere. The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is committed to provide hope for children who are abused and neglected.

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