Report: Vikings, Patriots assistants won't coach due to vaccine mandate

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Rick Dennison is out as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach after refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, sources told ESPN's Courtney Cronin.

Dennison, 63, is believed to be the first position coach in the NFL to part ways with his club due to his refusal to receive the vaccine. He's been the Vikings' offensive line coach and running game coordinator for the last two seasons.

However, Minnesota addressed the report about Dennison in a statement, saying talks remaining ongoing.

"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 said, per NFL reporter Josina Anderson.

"At this time, coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirement of those protocols. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law."

Meanwhile, New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich will also not be with his team this season in a decision related to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL's guidelines, sources told ESPN's Mike Reiss.

The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff - coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers, and scouts - to have contact with players and other coaches.

It's not mandatory for players, but the NFL has strongly updated its COVID-19 protocols this year to ease rules for fully vaccinated individuals. The league announced Thursday that any game that can't be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players will result in the responsible team forfeiting the contest.

Dennison has been in the NFL for almost three decades. He spent time with the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Jets. He'll be replaced in Minnesota by assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, Cronin reports.

Minnesota's running game, which is led by star Dalvin Cook, has been one of the most consistent in the NFL. The team's offensive line is coming off a subpar campaign but welcomed two promising draft picks this offseason, including first-round offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Popovich was set to share the offensive line coaching job with Carmen Bricillo this year. Bricillo will now coach the offensive line unit alone.

The 36-year-old spent the last five seasons with the Patriots. Popovich coached the offensive line with Bricillo in 2020 after leading the running back group in 2019.

Report: Vikings, Patriots assistants won't coach due to vaccine mandate
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