Vaccination rates are the talk of the football world these days, as the NFL has made it clear to teams that it will not be moving games due to COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players and coaches. Should that happen, the league said in a memo on Thursday, teams will be forced to forfeit and accept a loss, while players on both teams will not receive game checks.
On Friday, reports indicated that Vikings offensive assistant Rick Dennison had left the team as a direct result of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19. According to ESPN, Dennison refuses to get the vaccine, which the league is requiring for coaches, and it is unclear if Dennison was fired or resigned.
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 leave his team after choosing not to receive a vaccine.
The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. Players are not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but will face strict protocols during training camp and throughout the season that vaccinated players will be able to forgo.
The move will make Dennison a martyr to some anti-vaxx members of the league, but it shows just how serious franchises are about avoiding the pandemic-plagued season it had in 2020. With games played on basically every day of the week last year because of outbreaks and no vaccines available, the pandemic looks very different in the summer of 2021. While vaccination among players is still a choice that offers some significant downsides to not getting the jab, the league has made it clear to teams that it will not be coaches causing problems for its schedule this season.