Following Rick Dennison‘s departure from the Vikings due to a COVID-19 vaccine refusal, the Patriots will also part ways with one of their offensive line coaches.
Co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich is off the Patriots’ staff, Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reports. Popovich is gone due to his refusal to comply with the NFL’s vaccine policy, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com adds (on Twitter). Popovich and Carmen Bricillo worked as co-O-line coaches in New England last season, but McBride adds the latter will helm the position solo this year.
Popovich, 36, has been with the Patriots since 2016. He broke into the NFL on Bill Belichick‘s staff and moved up to assistant running backs coach in 2019. In 2020, the Pats promoted he and Bricillo to fill the void created by famed O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia‘s retirement. Popovich’s NFL career is now in limbo.
In order to work with players, coaches must be vaccinated. The NFL has not required players to be vaccinated, but staffers — in order to qualify for Tier 1 or Tier 2 status — must either do so or provide medical or religious grounds for refusing. Teams are not permitted to cut players because of their refusal to be vaccinated, though they can jettison unvaccinated players for other reasons. However, no such rule is in place for coaches. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said Friday nearly 100% of NFL staffs are vaccinated, so it will be interesting to see if any additional coaches are moved off staff in the coming days.