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Report: Orlando Thomas loses battle with ALS

According to the Vikings’ official web site, former Minnesota safety Orlando Thomas, who in the mid-1990s was regarded as one of the best young safeties in the NFL, died Wednesday from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

He was 37.

Thomas began exhibiting symptoms in 2004, and his condition was revealed publicly in 2007.

Thomas, a second-round pick in 1995, spent seven seasons with the Vikings. He was a member of the 1998 team that went 15-1 and lost in overtime of the NFC Championship.

“He was always the guy joking around in the locker room, he had a big laugh,” said tight end Jim Kleinsasser, the only current member of the team who played with Thomas. “There wasn’t a guy on the team that didn’t love him and there wasn’t a guy on the team that he didn’t love. O.T. had a big heart and he was a great character to have on the team. . . .

“Every day is a holiday,” Kleinsasser said. “Orlando always used to say that. It was his way of saying how blessed we were to do what we were doing. He felt like it was a true honor to play for the Vikings and be a member of the NFL.”

In seven seasons, Thomas started 87 regular-season games and four playoff games.

UPDATE: Former Vikings and Saints receiver Jake Reed contends that the report of Thomas’ death is not accurate. Adam Schefter of ESPN has posted a similar message on Twitter.

SECOND UPDATE: The Vikings have retracted the report, and issued an apology.