It’s clearer than ever that a major divide exists on the issue of vaccinations. A lot of people out there either don’t believe in their effectiveness or believe the side effects aren’t worth the risk. That is why several people in the NFL are hesitant to get shots even as the league makes it clearer by the day that not getting vaccinated will lead to considerable punishment. Most recently the loss of paychecks and even forfeiting games if outbreaks occur. This was never going to be a clean issue and the Minnesota Vikings found that out the hard way.
According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, the Chicago Bears rival was forced to part ways with offensive line coach Rick Dennison. This after the longtime assistant refused to take shots despite the NFL making it a requirement. Whatever his personal reasons for the decision, the team decided keeping him around was too much of a risk to their operations. So he was handed his walking papers.
“After refusing to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, Rick Dennison is out as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Dennison, who had served as the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator the past two seasons, is believed to be the first NFL position coach to part ways with his team after choosing not to receive a vaccine.”
This one hurts for Minnesota.
Dennison is a good coach. Prior to his arrival in 2019, the Vikings offense gave up 40 sacks and didn’t have a running back go higher than 615 yards. In his first season, Dalvin Cook went to the Pro Bowl with 1,135 yards on the ground while Kirk Cousins was only sacked 28 times. The impact the coach had on their blocking was telling from the outset. Last season was even better for Cook who went over 1,500 yards on the ground. Cousins also threw a career-high 35 touchdowns.
This is not somebody they’re going to just easily replace. The man was among the most experienced and proven offensive line coaches in the NFL. Now just a month before the regular season, he’s out. His replacement, Phil Rauscher, has never run his own line in the NFL before and has a track record that can best be called a mixed bag. It would not be a surprise if this development hurts the team more than they care to admit.
Minnesota Vikings haven’t had the greatest offseason
It started poorly when their longtime assistant GM George Paton decided to leave for the GM job in Denver. Things got worse when they failed to move up in the 1st round of the draft to select Justin Fields. This despite multiple attempts. It probably wasn’t the best feeling when they saw the Bears pull it off instead. Now one of the guys who helped their offense become one of the best in the NFL last season is gone.
It isn’t clear why Dennison chose not to get the vaccine. Whatever his reasons, they were strong enough to risk losing his job over. Now he’s out. It is worth noting that he is 63-years old. Vaccinations for people that age can seem offputting. There is also the fact that his friend and longtime colleague Gary Kubiak chose to retire this offseason. The two worked together for many years in places like Denver, Baltimore, and Houston prior to uniting again with the Minnesota Vikings.
He may have just wanted an exit strategy that didn’t involve quitting.
All of this is pure speculation. It’s fair to wonder if this is the last instance the NFL will see. Other coaches and players likely feel the same way as Dennison does. Will they be willing to sacrifice their jobs as well? Could this also lead to legal ramifications? Odds are this is only getting started.