Report: Patriots Coach Cole Popovich Won't Be with Team in 2021 over COVID-19 Vaccine

Adam WellsJuly 23, 2021

Football: Super Bowl LII: New England Patriots offensive assistant Cole Popovich in runway before game vs Philadelphia Eagles at US Bank Stadium.
Minneapolis, MN 2/4/2018
CREDIT: Robert Beck (Photo by Robert Beck /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: X161661 TK1 )
Set Number: X161661 TK1

New England Patriots assistant Cole Popovich won't be with the team this season, according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe

Per ESPN's Mike Reiss, Popovich's decision to step away is related to the NFL's recently announced COVID-19 vaccine guidelines for 2021. 

Carmen Bricillo will now be the team's sole offensive line coach in 2021, per McBride. 

Earlier in the day, ESPN's Courtney Cronin reported that Rick Dennison was out as the Minnesota Vikings assistant coach for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the league sent a memo to all 32 teams Thursday stating that any game that can't be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff members would count as a forfeit for the team with the outbreak. Players from both teams would also lose their paychecks for the game.

The memo noted that more than 75 percent of players in the league have at least been partially vaccinated. It also said that more than half of all teams had a vaccination rate over 80 percent. 

In May, NFL owners and the players association agreed to have relaxed coronavirus protocols for vaccinated players and staff members. 

The relaxed protocols include no daily testing, no mask mandate, no travel restrictions and not being subject to quarantine after contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19. 

Popovich has been an assistant coach on Bill Belichick's staff since 2016. The 36-year-old spent three seasons as a coaching assistant before being promoted to assistant running backs coach in 2019. He's spent last season as co-offensive line coach with Bricillo.