Wed, 22 Sep 2021

Vikings: Discussions with OL coach Rick Dennison ongoing

Field Level Media
24 Jul 2021, 07:55 GMT+10

The Minnesota Vikings said they are still in discussions with Rick Dennison after ESPN reported on Friday that the veteran NFL assistant coach had left his job after refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

"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 said in a statement. "At this time, Coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements of those protocols. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law."

Dennison, 63, had been offensive line coach/run game coordinator for two seasons. He was believed to be the first position coach to leave a team over vaccine regulation should he depart from the Vikings.

ESPN later reported New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich won't be with the team this season in a decision related to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines.

The NFL is requiring that all Tier 1 staff, which includes coaches, scouts, equipment managers and team executives, be fully vaccinated. Players do not have the same rule, but will be under restrictive COVID-19 protocols if they are unvaccinated.

ESPN said the Vikings promoted Dennison's assistant, Phil Rauscher, to fill the vacated position and added Auburn special-teams analyst Ben Steele to the staff.

Dennison played nine seasons at linebacker for the Denver Broncos before beginning his coaching career in 1995 as a Broncos offensive analyst. He served as offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Broncos, and designed the offense that Peyton Manning led to a victory in Super Bowl 50.

The Vikings report to training camp on Tuesday.

Popovich reportedly had been wearing a mask during his time with the Patriots this spring.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who is attempting to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster, expressed an anti-vaccination sentiment via Twitter on Friday.

"It would be a lot easier to trust the science if only it made sense and they stood behind it and took responsibility for them," Hamilton said, in part, in his post on social media.

The 28-year-old, who was undrafted out of South Carolina State, has appeared in 57 games (two starts) in five seasons with three different teams.

--Field Level Media

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