After refusing to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, Rick Dennison is out as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Dennison had served as the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator the past two seasons. In a statement Friday, the Vikings said they were still in discussions with Dennison about the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Another coach in the league, New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich, also won’t be with his team in 2021 in a decision related to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines, league sources confirmed to ESPN.
The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. Players are not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but will face strict protocols during training camp and throughout the season that vaccinated players will be able to forgo.
In a memo released by the league this summer, the NFL said any unvaccinated Tier 1 staff member must provide a valid religious or medical reason for not receiving the vaccine. Losing Tier 1 status prohibits coaches from being on the field and in meeting rooms and having direct interactions with players.
The Vikings noted in their statement that Dennison does not have a vaccination exemption.
Phil Rauscher has been promoted from assistant offensive line coach to fill Dennison’s position, sources told ESPN. The Vikings also hired Ben Steele, who had recently been hired by Auburn as a special teams analyst, to fill the position Rauscher had held since 2019.
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SOURCE: ESPN, Courtney Cronin