Rick Dennison isn’t leaving the Vikings after all. However, he’s also not returning in the role he has held since 2019.
Dennison, who had been the Vikings’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator, will become a senior offensive advisor for the team. The Vikings made the announcement on Tuesday, a day before training camp is set to open at TCO Performance Center.
It was reported last Friday that Dennison no longer would be with the franchise because of his refusal to receive a vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine is required for all Tier I staff in the NFL, including coaches, front-office officials, equipment managers and scouts. Players aren’t required to be vaccinated, but those that aren’t will have far stricter protocols to follow.
Phil Rauscher will take over as the Vikings’ offensive line coach and Ben Steele will join the team as Rauscher’s assistant. Dennison’s ability to directly interact with players will be limited, if he doesn’t get vaccinated. But he still can serve as an advisor to first-year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as well as Rauscher and Steele.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Dennison no longer will be designated as the run game coordinator and that those duties will be spread among a few coaches. Dennison almost certainly will still have a hand in game-planning for the run.
Rauscher served as the offensive line coach for the Washington Football Team before joining the Vikings. He was promoted from assistant offensive line coach by Washington during the 2019 season. He was a member of the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff for three seasons before joining Washington and was an offensive assistant when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season.
Steele was a tight end during his playing career and went to training camp with the Vikings in 2003 and 2004. His first coaching job came in 2013 when he became an offensive quality control coach for Tampa Bay. He was eventually promoted to tight ends coach by the Buccaneers before joining the Atlanta Falcons, first as an offensive assistant and then as tight ends coach.
Steele, 43, was hired by Auburn as a special teams analyst this past spring, but stepped down to take the Vikings job.