The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings responded to a report that it fired a coach for his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine by saying discussions are ongoing with the coach.
ESPN cited anonymous sources in its reporting that offensive line coach Rick Dennison was ousted because he didn’t get a vaccine.
“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 Vikings said in a July 23 statement to news outlets after the report emerged.
“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.”
NFL coaches face losing direct access to players if they don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine under the protocols referenced by the team.
The protocols were developed by the league and its players’ union, the NFLPA. They include rules for testing players and policies regarding players who aren’t vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
Dennison’s agent, Peter Schaffer, told NBC Sports that Dennison “has at all times been ready, willing, and able to work and to do everything in his power to help the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl.”
“That continues to be his mindset,” he said.
He didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The NFL has pressured players and other team employees to get vaccinated, circulating a memo this week that said that any games canceled due to COVID-19 spikes among non-vaccinated players would result in a loss for that team.
DeAndre Hopkins and other players have spoken out about the NFL’s policy.
“Never thought I would say this. But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL,” Hopkins wrote on social media.
The NFL has not responded to a request for comment.
On July 23, reports indicated that New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich wouldn’t be with the team this year, in a move linked to the COVID-19 protocols.
A Patriots spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a query.
The NFL said on July 23 that a large percentage of the top-tier team employees, or workers who interact directly with players, have been vaccinated.
Nine teams have 90 percent or more players vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated, Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s medical director, told the Associated Press. Five teams have less than 70 percent of players with at least one shot.
“I think we are off to an excellent start,” Sills said. “Those numbers are much higher than what we’re seeing in society as a whole. There has been a lot of movement in that area. As you see players coming to training camp, you will see more players beginning that process [of vaccination].”