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Vikings reassign unvaccinated coach Dennison to advisor role

EAGAN — The Minnesota Vikings and assistant coach Rick Dennison have found a solution for him to remain with the club despite his unvaccinated status prohibiting from interacting with players, agreeing to contract terms with the 63-year-old to take a role as senior offensive advisor.

The Vikings announced the reassignment on Tuesday, the day before their first full-team practice of training camp. Phil Rauscher was promoted to fill Dennison’s offensive line coach position, after serving as his assistant last season. Ben Steele was hired as assistant offensive coach. The running game coordinator title that Dennison also carried will be dropped for now.

Dennison was hired by the Vikings in 2019. This will be his 27th year on an NFL coaching staff.

“It was important we use him as a resource,” head coach Mike Zimmer said, “but also give him a chance to work.”

Both Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman declined to divulge Dennison’s reason for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, despite strict league-wide protocols for those without it. Zimmer said it’s possible Dennison would get it later.

For now, all of his collaboration with the staff must be virtual. He’ll help the other offensive assistants evaluate players and devise game plans, as in the past, but he won’t be able to have the hands-on work with the offensive linemen he’s drawn praise for throughout his years in the NFL.

That job will fall to Rauscher and Steele, who will be responsible for an especially young group after the offseason release of left tackle Riley Reiff. Right tackle Brian O’Neill, entering his fourth year in the league, has the longest tenure with the Vikings. Rookies Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis are expected to fill starting spots, assuming their development progresses throughout the month.

Rauscher will begin his seventh season in NFL coaching. He spent two years in Washington and three with Denver.

Steele will start his eighth season as a coach in the league and his 14th overall. He was the tight ends coach for Atlanta last year. As a player, Steele was in training camp with the Vikings in 2003 and 2004 and played for Green Bay during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.