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Vikings announce new role for Rick Dennison, who was removed as offensive line coach due to COVID protocols

CBS Sports logo CBS Sports 7/27/2021 Jeff Kerr
ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 29: Offensive line coach Rick Dennison of the Minnesota Vikings walks the sideline during the second half of a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on August 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Minnesota 27-23. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) © Provided by CBS Sports

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 29: Offensive line coach Rick Dennison of the Minnesota Vikings walks the sideline during the second half of a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on August 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Minnesota 27-23. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings have found a way to work things out with Rick Dennison after all. Dennison, who was removed as Minnesota's offensive line coach Friday, will remain with the team as a senior offensive adviser due to COVID-19 protocols. 

NFL protocols regarding the COVID vaccine state Tier 1 employees -- which includes coaches -- must be vaccinated unless its for religious or medical reasons. Dennison did not have an exemption so he was removed from his role, even though the Vikings remained in contact with him regarding staying in the organization. 

Dennison's new role keeps him with the Vikings, which head coach Mike Zimmer wanted. 


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"He's got 40 years of experience doing what he's doing," Zimmer said to reporters at Vikings camp Tuesday. "I felt like it was important that we use him as a resource, but we also give him the opportunity to continue to work. With the way the protocols are, he can't be around the players in person, but he has so much knowledge and so much experience that I felt like he could be a big help."

Minnesota officially named Phil Rauscher as offensive line coach (Dennison's old position) and added Ben Steele as the team's assistant offensive line coach. Rauscher has plenty of experience coaching an offensive line, having previously served as the offensive line coach for the Washington Football Team in 2019. In the 11 games Rauscher served as offensive line coach -- he was promoted during the season -- Washington totaled 1,239 rushing yards and averaged 4.62 yards per carry -- good for eighth in the NFL. He joined the Vikings as an assistant offensive line coach in 2020. 

Steele is in his eighth NFL season as a head coach. He has ties with the Vikings organization as a player on the training camp roster in 2003 and 2004. Steele most recently coached with the Atlanta Falcons, overseeing tight ends in 2020 and spending 2019 as an offensive assistant. 

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