Vikings Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison Fired Due to Vaccine Refusal
Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison has reportedly been ousted from his position after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
Breaking: Rick Dennison is out as Vikings offensive line coach/run game coordinator after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. MIN will promote assistant OL coach Phil Rauscher to replace Dennison, hired Auburn special teams analyst Ben Steele as an assistant. https://t.co/3oOgXHsaMr
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) July 23, 2021
Dennison, who was considered a Tier 1 staff member in the NFL, is ineligible for that status due to his refusal and lack of religious or medical reason to support his decision not to get the vaccine, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Phil Rauscher, the team’s assistant offensive line coach, has been promoted to Dennison’s position with Ben Steele having been hired to fill Rauscher’s spot.
The Vikings released a statement on Friday addressing Dennison’s fate on the team.
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) July 23, 2021
“The Vikings continue to hold discussions with offensive line coach Rick Dennison regarding the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols for training camp and preseason games,” the team wrote. “At this time, coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements.”
It is unclear if the former offensive line coach has been demoted, fired, or walked away as a result of the NFL’s latest protocols.
The announcement comes just a day after the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams that if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs amongst unvaccinated players and forces a game to be canceled in the 18-week season, the team must forfeit. Last year, the NFL had to extend its season from 17 to 18 weeks as a result of outbreaks, but this year they’ve warned they will not allow a 19th week to occur.
Unvaccinated players also face strict restrictions during training camp and preseason games, including daily COVID-19 testing, no social events, no sponsorship activity, and more. Unvaccinated staff members also face harsh restrictions.
According to the memo, “Any staff member who is not vaccinated and does not have an approved religious or medical exemption will not be permitted to have Tier 1 or Tier 2 status and therefore will not be permitted in-person access to Restricted Areas of the facility or to players.”
Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s medical director, told the Associated Press on Friday that 80% of NFL players are vaccinated and nine teams have 90% or more vaccinated. He added that nearly all Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees have been vaccinated.