Report: Rick Dennison, Vikings Part Ways After Asst. Coach Refused COVID-19 Vaccine

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 23, 2021

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20:  Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison is seen on the sideline during regular season game action between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions on October 20, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rick Dennison is reportedly no longer the offensive line coach/run game coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings because he did not want to receive a vaccine for COVID-19.

Courtney Cronin of ESPN reported the Vikings parted ways with Dennison on Friday. He held the position for the previous two years.

As Cronin noted, the NFL requires all Tier 1 staff, which includes coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts, be vaccinated unless they have a "valid religious or medical reason" not to.

Minnesota promoted offensive line coach Phil Rauscher to take over for Dennison.

Dennison has 27 years of NFL coaching experience and has been on the staffs of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets.

While the NFL doesn't require players to receive the vaccine like Tier 1 staff members, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the league told teams any club that experience a COVID-19 outbreak will forfeit any games that need to be canceled as a result.

What's more, players on both sides will remain unpaid for that game.

There is also the competitive advantage of receiving the vaccine, as those who are vaccinated and test positive can return to play after two negative tests that are spaced 24 hours apart if they are asymptomatic. Those who are not vaccinated must be in isolation for 10 days, which could easily include the day of games.

After the NFL instituted such changes, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pondered his future in the league in a since-deleted tweet:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

DeAndre Hopkins deleted a tweet “questioning [his] future” in the NFL after the league announced any team with a COVID outbreak due to unvaccinated players could result in a forfeit <a href="https://t.co/PsOeCWQy4u">pic.twitter.com/PsOeCWQy4u</a>

"I've spoken to NFL players who feel the league changed its tune, going from 'it's your choice' to get the COVID vaccine to now feeling 'forced' (their word, not mine) to get it because of the restrictions for unvaccinated guys," Kimberley A. Martin of ESPN reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed COVID-19 vaccines "safe and effective."

The Vikings will start their season without Dennison on Sept. 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals.