Offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Rick Dennison, has reportedly stepped down from his position after refusing to get vaccinated for Covid-19. Dennison has been the Vikings’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the past two seasons. The Hill reports Phil Rauscher will replace him.
Cole Popovich, co-offensive line coach of the New England Patriots, will also be leaving his position due to the league’s Covid-19 protocols. Popovich started with the Patriots in 2015 and moved up from coaching assistant to running backs coach and, most recently, co-offensive line coach. He is set to be replaced by Carmen Bricillo.
While the NFL insists it has not mandated vaccinations, it has placed restrictions on unvaccinated players and coaches as well as potentially imposing penalties for teams or players believed to have caused an outbreak. The league rules make it clear they would prefer everyone get vaccinated.
The NFL sent a memo to all teams stating in part, “If a game is canceled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection.”
In addition to the coaches leaving their positions, players have voiced concern about the league’s new rules. After the memo was released, DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, stated in a since-deleted tweet “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.” After deleting the post he followed up by tweeting Freedom?.
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) July 22, 2021
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley also expressed disapproval of the new rules saying he would rather retire than take the covid-19 vaccine. Beasley also stated he would get vaccinated if “Pfizer puts a percentage of its earnings from the vaccine in my wife’s name.” Mark Cuban chimed in and offered to buy Pfizer stock for his wife if he got vaccinated and promoted it on his social media accounts. No word on if Beasley accepted Cuban’s offer.
I’ll tell you what Cole. You get vaccinated and promote vaccination on all your social, I’ll buy your wife a share of Pfizer stock. It pays a 3.78% dividend. That way she is getting a percentage of Pfizer’s earnings. Deal ? https://t.co/gMmMHt97ro
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 20, 2021
Opinions of NFL players and staff have landed on both sides of the vaccine issue. Matthew Judon of the New England Patriots expressed his disapproval of the new rules in a tweet stating, “The NFLPA F***ing sucks.”
The NFLPA Fucking sucks
— Matthew Judon (@man_dammn) July 22, 2021
Leonard Fournette of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said in a since-deleted tweet, “Vaccine I can’t do it……”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said their roster was 50% vaccinated, and he hopes to get to 100%, saying “[getting vaccinated] just makes the most sense.”
Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, who tested positive for covid-19 last summer, received the vaccine but said nobody should be forced to get it. ESPN reports that 16 teams have reached 85% vaccination.