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Rick Dennison out as Minnesota Vikings assistant after refusing COVID-19 vaccine, sources say


EAGAN, Minn. — After refusing to obtain a vaccine for COVID-19, Rick Dennison is out as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach, sources instructed ESPN on Friday.

Dennison had served because the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run recreation coordinator the previous two seasons. In a press release Friday, the Vikings mentioned they had been nonetheless in discussions with Dennison concerning the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

One other coach within the league, New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich, additionally will not be together with his group in 2021 in a choice associated to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL pointers, league sources confirmed to ESPN.

The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 employees, together with coaches, front-office executives, gear managers and scouts. Gamers should not required to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine however will face strict protocols throughout coaching camp and all through the season that vaccinated gamers will be capable of forgo.

In a memo launched by the league this summer season, the NFL mentioned any unvaccinated Tier 1 employees member should present a sound spiritual or medical motive for not receiving the vaccine. Dropping Tier 1 standing prohibits coaches from being on the sector and in assembly rooms and having direct interactions with gamers.

The Vikings famous of their assertion that Dennison doesn’t have a vaccination exemption.

Phil Rauscher has been promoted from assistant offensive line coach to fill Dennison’s place, sources instructed ESPN. The Vikings additionally employed Ben Steele, who had not too long ago been employed by Auburn as a particular groups analyst, to fill the place Rauscher had held since 2019.

Dennison’s departure comes at a time of transition for the Vikings’ offense, which will probably be guided by first-year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak. Kubiak, 34, was promoted to fill the function his father, Gary, held in Minnesota in the course of the 2020 season.

With 27 years of NFL teaching expertise, Dennison was thought of an important piece in serving to bridge the hole for the youthful Kubiak, given his expertise calling run performs and data of the scheme the Vikings have used for the reason that 2019 season.

The Vikings had been one of many league’s outstanding operating groups in 2020 behind Dalvin Cook dinner, who grew to become the primary Minnesota participant to hurry for a minimum of 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season. Cook dinner was answerable for 30.5% of the Vikings’ scrimmage yards, the second-highest price within the NFL behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (33.8), based on ESPN Stats & Info knowledge.

In New England, Popovich coached with the Patriots by the spring, and his on-field presence stood out, partially, as he was one of many solely staffers to put on a masks throughout apply.

Popovich, who’s distantly associated to longtime San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich however mentioned in September that he has by no means met him, was set to enter his seventh season with the Patriots. In 2020, he had shared the offensive line duties with longtime former Youngstown State offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo, who’s now anticipated to tackle extra of a number one function.

The Boston Globe first reported that Popovich would not be teaching with the Patriots in 2021.

Dennison, 63, labored with Gary Kubiak for greater than three a long time in Denver (1995-2009, 2015-16), Houston (2010-13) and Baltimore (2014). Earlier than becoming a member of the Vikings in 2019, Dennison served as offensive line coach/run recreation coordinator for the New York Jets in 2018.

Rauscher is coming into his seventh season as a coach within the NFL after becoming a member of the Vikings in 2020. He coached with Dennison on the Broncos employees in the course of the 2015 and 2016 seasons and was Washington’s offensive line coach in 2019.

Steele was on a number of NFL rosters as a decent finish from 2001 to 2007, together with in Houston beneath Gary Kubiak. He started working within the NFL in 2013 as an offensive high quality management coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a place he held till 2016. Steele was later promoted to tight ends coach for the Buccaneers earlier than transferring to the Atlanta Falcons, the place he was an offensive assistant in 2019 and tight ends coach in 2020. He was employed by Auburn earlier this yr.

The Vikings will maintain their first coaching camp apply Wednesday.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss contributed to this report.



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