Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison will vacate his position with the team after declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It was only a matter of time after yesterday’s NFL vaccine policy, but it’s quite a surprise to see a coach being the first one to lose their job over the issue.
Rick Dennison out as Minnesota Vikings OL coach over COVID-19 vaccine
Rick Dennison served as the Minnesota Vikings OL coach and run game coordinator for the last two seasons. He will become the first position coach to part ways with a team after declining to get the vaccine.
The NFL requires all Tier 1 staff to be vaccinated, while players aren’t required to do so but face major consequences if they go unvaccinated. Coaches, front-office staff, scouts and equipment managers are all labeled Tier 1 staff.
Tier 1 staff are only excused from the vaccine for a valid religious or medical reason. No unvaccinated Tier 1 staff is allowed on the field, in meetings, or to interact with any players, coaches or staff.
Phil Rauscher to step in
The Minnesota Vikings will be promoting assistant OL coach Phil Rauscher to replace Dennison. Ben Steele, a former special teams analyst for Auburn, will be hired to replace Rauscher. The timing could not be worse for the Minnesota Vikings as they lose a key position coach right before training camp.
The NFL released a memo on Thursday, dictating that if a match cannot be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak, it will be forfeited. The team at fault receives a loss on their record and is financially responsible for any losses. The main takeaway is that both teams involved in the forfeit do not receive their paragraph five base pay for that week.
Players like DeAndre Hopkins and Leonard Fournette were vocal on Twitter against the new policy, stating that they don’t want to be in a league where they feel as if they are being forced to get a vaccine or risk harming their team and teammates. They went as far as to speculate on the idea of retirement.
Rick Dennison’s exit from the Minnesota Vikings is just the first domino. Any Tier 1 staff member who declines the vaccine essentially has their hands tied behind their backs. Most teams would then need to move on to someone else to avoid any issues or fines.
All eyes are on the NFL after this announcement and we could see more coaches and players opting out of the vaccine and maybe even the job.