After Refusing COVID Vaccine, Vikings Reach Deal With Rick Dennison: Report

By Jason Hall

July 27, 2021

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills
Photo: Getty Images

Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison will remain with the team, contrary to a report last Friday (July 23) that he was fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pro Football Talk reports both sides reached an agreement to keep Dennison in Minnesota on Tuesday (July 27), which acknowledges that the team and coach will comply with the NFL's applicable COVID protocols, whether the veteran offensive line coach is vaccinated or not.

The league's protocols will likely limit Dennison's ability to directly interact with players should he refuse to get vaccinated. The 63-year-old assistant had previously requested an exemption from vaccination, according to Pro Football Talk.

Dennison served as the Vikings' offensive line coach and run game coordinator during the past two seasons, having previously held similar positions with the Denver Broncos (1995-2009, 2015-16), Houston Texans (2010-13), Baltimore Ravens (2014), Buffalo Bills (2017) and New York Jets (2018).

Hours after reports of Dennison being terminated on Friday, the Boston Globe's Jim McBride reported co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich would not return to the Patriots' staff in 2021, which ESPN's Mike Reiss confirmed was a decision made in relation "to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines."

The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 NFL staff, which includes coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts in adherence with league policy.

Players are not required to get vaccinated, however, the league announced stricter penalties on Thursday (July 22) in an effort to improve vaccination rates.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the league sent a memo to clubs saying it won't reschedule games during the new 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players and teams will instead be credited with a loss via forfeit, according to "sources informed of the situation."

Additionally, players on both teams will not receive their gameday pay for the lost matchup, and the team responsible for the cancellation will cover financial losses, as well as be subject to possible discipline from Commissioner Roger Goodell's office.

In 2020, the NFL rescheduled numerous games due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but zero were cancelled during the 17-week schedule.

This year, the league plans to extend its schedule to a total of 272 games in an 18-week span.

"We do not anticipate adding a '19th week' to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season," the memo stated in a highlighted portion via NFL.com.

The memo is the NFL's strongest effort in pressuring owners, teams and coaches to get vaccinated since the vaccine rollout, though it has insisted it would not mandate vaccinations previously.

"If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection," the memo states via NFL.com. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."

NFL Network's Judy Battista reports that progress has been made in relation to vaccine totals since players reported to camps, with more than 78% of NFL players having received at least one shot and 14 of the 32 teams having at least 85% of their roster fully vaccinated.

Additionally, Pelissero reports all 32 teams have at least a 50% vaccination rate among their active roster.

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