Patriots Assistant Is Second NFL Coach Fired After Refusing Vaccine: Report


Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots

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New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich is reportedly the second NFL assistant to be fired for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Boston Globe's Jim McBride initially reported Popovich would not return to the Patriots' staff in 2021.

ESPN's Mike Reiss confirmed the decision was made in relation "to the COVID-19 vaccine and NFL guidelines."

Co-offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo will now take on a leading role in McBride's absence.

The news comes hours after ESPN's Courtney Cronin reported Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennsion was believed to be the first NFL position coach to lose a job after refusing to get vaccinated, according to sources with knowledge about the situation.

Dennison, 63, served as the Vikings' offensive line coach and run game coordinator during the past two seasons, having previously held similar positions with the Denver Broncos (1995-2009, 2015-16), Houston Texans (2010-13), Baltimore Ravens (2014), Buffalo Bills (2017) and New York Jets (2018).

The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 NFL staff, which includes coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts in adherence with league policy.

Players are not required to get vaccinated, however, the league announced stricter penalties on Thursday (July 22) in an effort to improve vaccination rates.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the league sent a memo to clubs saying it won't reschedule games during the new 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players and teams will instead be credited with a loss via forfeit, according to "sources informed of the situation."

Additionally, players on both teams will not receive their gameday pay for the lost matchup, and the team responsible for the cancellation will cover financial losses, as well as be subject to possible discipline from Commissioner Roger Goodell's office.

In 2020, the NFL rescheduled numerous games due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but zero were cancelled during the 17-week schedule.

This year, the league plans to extend its schedule to a total of 272 games in an 18-week span.

"We do not anticipate adding a '19th week' to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season," the memo stated in a highlighted portion via NFL.com.

The memo is the NFL's strongest effort in pressuring owners, teams and coaches to get vaccinated since the vaccine rollout, though it has insisted it would not mandate vaccinations previously.

"If a game is cancelled/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 or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection," the memo states via NFL.com. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."

NFL Network's Judy Battista reports that progress has been made in relation to vaccine totals since players reported to camps, with more than 78% of NFL players having received at least one shot and 14 of the 32 teams having at least 85% of their roster fully vaccinated.

Additionally, Pelissero reports all 32 teams have at least a 50% vaccination rate among their active roster.


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