Contrary to the ESPN report that went viral on Friday, Vikings offensive line coach and run game coordinator Rick Dennison has not been fired by the team at this point. The organization released a statement saying that they "continue to hold discussions" with Dennison.
"The Vikings continue to hold discussions with Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison regarding the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols for training camp and preseason games," the statement reads. "At this time, Coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements of those protocols. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law."
Dennison is also still listed as the Vikings' OL coach on the team's website. However, unless he gets fully vaccinated — or receives an exemption — he will not regain his status as a Tier 1 staff member and will be unable to work directly with players on the field, in meeting rooms, or anywhere else. Essentially, it would be impossible for him to do his job as the team's O-line coach. The Vikings presumably don't want to have a virtual O-line coach if they don't have to.
It seems like there are three possibilities here. One is that Dennison continues refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and ends up being fired after all. Another is that he refuses the vaccine and transitions into an advisory role where he stays with the team but doesn't work directly with players. The last option would be that he changes course and decides to get vaccinated. If he did make that decision, he still wouldn't be able to get back to normal coaching until he is considered fully vaccinated, which could take six weeks with a two-dose vaccine of Pfizer or Moderna.
So we'll see what happens. But one thing is for sure: unless Dennison gets vaccinated, he won't be able to handle the duties of a position coach. The only way for him to remain with the team will be for him to move into a hands-off role. Dennison has coached the same way in the NFL for 27 years, so it's unclear if he would be open to that kind of transition if the Vikings want to keep him around.
Dennison has taken some heat from Vikings fans (and myself) for the struggles of the offensive line, but he and Gary Kubiak put together an excellent running game over the past two seasons that has helped Dalvin Cook thrive. Losing Dennison altogether this close to the season wouldn't be ideal, so perhaps the Vikings will try to keep him in some capacity.
Dennison's agent Peter Schaffer released a statement, via Ben Goessling: “Rick is 100% committed to and invested in being the best football coach he can be for the Vikings with the singular focus of winning the Super Bowl this year.”
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all season long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.