Rick Dennison Fired as Vikings Coach After Refusing Vaccine
ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported Friday (July 23, 2021) Rick Dennison was fired as Vikings coach after refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19, while NFL rules mandate coaches with direct contact to players need to be inoculated.
Dennison has been the team’s offensive line coach and runs game coordinator for the past two seasons. He is the first NFL position coach reported to have parted ways with a team over the NFL’s vaccination requirements. The team’s first training camp practice is Wednesday.
The Vikings confirmed the shocking news in a statement later Friday, writing, “The Vikings continue to hold discussions with OL Coach Rick Dennison regarding the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols for training camp/preseason games.”
The statement added, “At this time, Coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law.”
The vaccination is needed for all Tier 1 staff, like coaches, front-office officials, equipment managers, and scouts. Players are not needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine; however, they will face severe rules throughout training camp and the season that vaccinated players can forgo.
In a note published by the league this summer, the NFL announced any unvaccinated Tier 1 staff member must present a strong religious or medical reason for not getting the vaccine. Losing Tier 1 status prevents coaches from being on the field and in conference rooms and having close interactions with players.
Why Rick Dennison Fired as Vikings Coach?
The Vikings mentioned in their statement that Rick Dennison does not have a vaccination exemption, so they fired him. Phil Rauscher has been promoted from assistant offensive line coach to fill Dennison’s position, sources told ESPN.
The Vikings also hired Ben Steele, who had recently been hired by Auburn as a special teams analyst, to fill Rauscher’s position since 2019.
Dennison’s departure comes at a time of transition for the Vikings’ offense, guided by first-year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak. Kubiak, 34, was promoted to fill his father, Gary, held in Minnesota during the 2020 season.
With 27 years of NFL coaching experience, Dennison was considered a vital piece in helping bridge the gap for the younger Kubiak, given his experience calling run plays and knowledge of the scheme the Vikings have used since the 2019 season.
The Vikings are remembered as one of the league’s prominent running teams in 2020 behind Dalvin Cook. He became the first Minnesota player to rush for at least 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season. Cook was the main role in 30.5% of the Vikings’ scrimmage yards, the second-highest rate in the NFL behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (33.8), according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
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A fan wrote, “no “vaccine” should ever be mandated…get your acts together and rehire Rick Dennison, you communist pieces of crap…#boycottnfl there’s therapeutics for this for f sakes.”
Another said, “Rick Dennison should absolutely f**k the NFL and the Vikings up over this. There is literally no reason to require this vaccine outside of maybe the medical field. A football coach should have every right to make that choice without fear his livelihood will be put on the line.”
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