Minnesota Vikings Assistant Coach Rick Dennison Ousted After Refusing COVID Vaccine: Report

·3 min read
Rick Dennison
Rick Dennison

Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Rick Dennison

Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison has reportedly been ousted from his position after refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccination.

Dennison, who was considered a Tier 1 staff member in the NFL, is ineligible for that status due to his refusal and lack of religious or medical reason to support his decision not to get the vaccine, sources told ESPN on Friday.

The outlet also reports Phil Rauscher, the team's assistant offensive line coach, has been promoted to Dennison's position with Ben Steele having been hired to fill Rauscher's spot.

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Dennison joined the team as offensive line coach/run game coordinator for the 2019 season after fulfilling the same role for the New York Jets. He has also worked with the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens.

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The Vikings released a statement on Friday addressing Dennison's fate on the team.

"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 team wrote. "At this time, coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements."

It is unclear if the former offensive line coach has been demoted, fired, or walked away as a result of the NFL's latest protocols. The Vikings did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request to comment.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings

Rey Del Rio/Getty Minnesota Vikings

The announcement comes just a day after the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams that if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs amongst unvaccinated players and forces a game to be canceled in the 18-week season, the team must forfeit. Last year, the NFL had to extend its season from 17 to 18 weeks as a result of outbreaks, but this year they've warned they will not allow a 19th week to occur.

Unvaccinated players also face strict restrictions during training camp and preseason games, including daily COVID-19 testing, no social events, no sponsorship activity, and more. Unvaccinated staff members also face harsh restrictions.

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Per the memo, "Any staff member who is not vaccinated and does not have an approved religious or medical exemption will not be permitted to have Tier 1 or Tier 2 status and therefore will not be permitted in-person access to Restricted Areas of the facility or to players."

Dr. Allen Sills, the league's medical director, told the Associated Press on Friday that 80% of NFL players are vaccinated and nine teams have 90% or more vaccinated. He added that nearly all Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees have been vaccinated.

NFL Logo
NFL Logo

Alex Burstow/Getty NFL Logo

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"I think we are off to an excellent start," Sills told the outlet. "Those numbers are much higher than what we're seeing in society as a whole. There has been a lot of movement in that area. As you see players coming to training camp, you will see more players beginning that process (of vaccination)."

Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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