Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison will take a position as a senior offensive advisor after declining to receive vaccination for COVID-19.
Dennison had been the club's offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the last two years. As Vikings training camp opened Tuesday, the club announced that Phil Rauscher will step in as offensive line coach, with Ben Steele as an assistant OL coach.
"Rick is a football coach and he's got 40 years of experience doing what he's doing," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters Tuesday. "I felt like it was important that we use him as a resource, but we also give him the opportunity to continue to work. With the way the protocols are, he can't be around the players in person. But he has so much knowledge and so much experience that I felt like he could be a big help."
The NFL's protocols for COVID-19 require that Tier 1 and 2 employees, a group which includes coaches, must be vaccinated absent religious or medical reasons. The Vikings released a statement Friday that they were holding discussions with Dennison, noting that he did not have such an exemption. Absent Tier 1 or 2 status, Dennison's contact and proximity with players would be more limited under the NFL's protocols for the virus.
The move comes amid news of significant improvement in the NFL's efforts to get players vaccinated; 85 percent of NFL players have received at least one vaccine shot, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.