Less than a week before the Vikings are set to open training camp, Rick Dennison reportedly has been dismissed as the team’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin was the first to report the story on Friday.
Cronin reported the Vikings will promote assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher to replace Dennison and hired Auburn special teams analyst Ben Steele to take Rauscher’s previous job. Dennison had spent two years on the Vikings’ coaching staff.
The Vikings put out a statement Friday afternoon saying a final decision on Dennison had not been made. “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 statement read. “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.”
Coaches, front office executives, equipment managers and scouts are all classified as Tier I staff and are required to get the vaccine. Players are not required to get the vaccine but unvaccinated players will face far more protocols than those who have received the vaccine. The NFL said in a memo this summer that unvaccinated Tier 1 staff members have to provide a valid religious or medical reason for not getting vaccinated. Coaches who lose their Tier 1 status can’t be on the field, in meeting rooms or have direct interactions with players.
Vikings backup running back Alexander Mattison expressed his disappointment via Twitter when he saw the report on Dennison.
Smh, they act as if we didn’t successfully play a whole season last year. Don’t make no sense. I’m rockin wit you 100% coach 💯 https://t.co/dNoiV7ZVmx
— Alexander Mattison (@AlexMattison22) July 23, 2021
Dennison’s reported dismissal comes as Klint Kubiak prepares for his first season as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Dennison has been an NFL coach for 27 years.
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