Rick Dennison, an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings, is out of a job after he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to ESPN.
Dennison has served as the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator for two seasons. He appears to be the first coach in the league to depart because of a vaccine refusal. ESPN reports that Phil Rauscher was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to Dennison’s vacant position.
The NFL has made vaccinations for Tier 1 staff — which includes coaches, front-office personnel and equipment managers and scouts — a requirement, according to a memo sent to teams this summer.
In the memo, the league said Tier 1 staffers could be exempt from the rule if they provide a valid religious or medical reason for not receiving one. If they aren’t vaccinated, the coach will lose Tier 1 status, meaning they won’t be on the field, in meeting rooms or have direct contact with players.
Players aren’t required to receive a vaccine, but the NFL issued a memo Thursday that outlined strong repercussions for teams that experience a coronavirus outbreak caused by or involving unvaccinated players. A coronavirus outbreak could lead to a game being forfeited.
That policy drew plenty of questions from NFL players, including Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. In a since-deleted tweet, Hopkins wrote that “being in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @nfl.” He followed that tweet with a one-word offering: “Freedom?”
Leonard Fournette, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, also deleted a tweet that said: “Vaccine I can’t do it…….” And New England Patriots linebacker Matt Judon tweeted: “The NFLPA F—-ing sucks.”
Before Dennison joined the Vikings, he played for the Denver Broncos between 1982 and 1990. He then began his coaching career, rising to become offensive coordinator in Denver for two stints. He also worked for the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.