Throughout the spring, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated to owners that assistant coaches and other personnel could lose their Tier 1 and Tier 2 statuses, meaning they couldn’t have direct interactions with players, if they didn’t get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they could prove valid health or religious reasons for their decisions.
According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, the Minnesota Vikings and assistant coach Rick Dennison have parted ways after Dennison refused to get vaccinated. Per Cronin, Dennison served as Minnesota’s offensive line coach/run game coordinator over the past two seasons before Friday’s development and is believed to be the first coach to leave a club over COVID-19 vaccinations.
In a corresponding move, Minnesota is promoting assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher to replace Dennison. The Vikings’ first training camp practice is scheduled for Wednesday.
The news of Dennison’s departure comes 24 hours after reporters shared a memo showing the NFL is threatening to force teams to forfeit if they cannot play a scheduled game during a week this season because of a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated personnel. Both the NFL and NFL Players Association have insisted since the spring they are not mandating players receive vaccine shots to participate in the upcoming campaign.