Assistant forces Vikings to dismiss him after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine

(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Rick Dennison is no longer the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings after he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, something that is currently mandatory for all NFL coaches.

Players haven’t even arrived for this summer’s training camp and the Minnesota Vikings have already made a significant change to their coaching staff.

After refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the Vikings will reportedly move on from offensive line coach Rick Dennison according to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin on Friday.

Minnesota didn’t really have any other choice since Dennison is classified as a Tier 1 staff member and every coach or staff member that falls into this tier is required by the NFL to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

What is next for the Minnesota Vikings offensive line?

Replacing Dennison as the Vikings offensive line coach will be Phil Rauscher, who was previously Minnesota’s assistant offensive line coach. Before working with the Vikings, Rauscher was the offensive line coach for the Washington Football Team in 2019 after spending the 2018 season as the team’s assistant offensive line coach.

To help with Rauscher’s sudden promotion, Minnesota has also added former Auburn special teams analyst Ben Steele to take over as the team’s new assistant offensive line coach.

It will be interesting to see what sort of impact this coaching change has on the performance of the Vikings offense in 2021. Dennison was not only in charge of Minnesota’s offensive line, but he was also the team’s run game coordinator.

Since Rauscher worked on the Vikings staff with Dennison last year, it’s hard to imagine much getting switched up for the offensive line in terms of schemes with this coaching change.

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Dennison joined Minnesota’s staff in 2019 when his longtime friend and co-worker, Gary Kubiak, was hired by the team. Before the Vikings, Dennison had coaching stints with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and Denver Broncos.

*(Update: The Vikings have released a statement that indicates Dennison has not yet been fired by the team, but that they are following the current requirements of the NFL’s current COVID-19 protocols.)