Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison is no longer with the team after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Courtney Cronin on ESPN. It is required for all Tier 1 staff for an NFL team to get the vaccine. Dennison is believed to be the first NFL position coach to leave his team after electing not to get the vaccination.
Dennison was the Vikings offensive line coach and passing game coordinator. To take his place, Phil Rauscher has been promoted from assistant offensive line coach, ESPN reports. Additionally, the Vikings hired Ben Steele to fill the position of assistant offensive line coach. Steele was recently hired by Auburn to be a special teams analyst.
This summer, the NFL sent out a memo to all 32 teams indicating all Tier 1 staff members, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts, are required to get the vaccine, and those who are unvaccinated have to provide a religious or medical reason for not receiving it. Dennison's move comes shortly after the NFL sent a memo to 32 teams about forfeiting games this season if unvaccinated players cause an outbreak within their game and the game can't be made up within the 18-week schedule.
"If a game is canceled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection," the memo states. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."
Dennison, 63, was a member of the Vikings coaching staff the last two seasons. He started his coaching career as an offensive assistant with the Denver Broncos in 1995. He was with the team for 14 years and helped the team win Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 as the team's special teams coordinator. He joined the Houston Texans coaching staff in 2010 and was then for four seasons. Dennison then was the Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach in 2014 before heading back to the Broncos in 2015 to be the offensive coordinator. Dennison won another Super Bowl with the Broncos his first year back before moving on to the Buffalo Bills in 2017 and the New York Jets in 2018.