Carmen Bricillo

Patriots Co-Offensive Line Coach Off Staff Due To COVID-19 Policy

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.

Extra Points: Beckham Jr., Giants, Lions, Patriots

Odell Beckham Jr. signed a mega-deal this past Summer that seemed to put all of the trade rumors surrounding the young wideout to rest. But the Giants’ superstar is starting to pop up in trade buzz yet again, after another drama-filled season. The team reiterated that they were committed to Beckham longterm at their year-end press conference, but Jay Glazer of The Athletic predicts that he’ll end up getting traded this offseason.

Beckham made headlines this past season for his thinly veiled criticism of Eli Manning, and yet again for his sideline antics during games. Beckham had health issues for the second straight season, missing four games with a quad injury. If the Giants were to put him on the trade block, there’d be no shortage of trade suitors. He’s still only 26, and would likely fetch multiple early draft picks if New York finally decided to pull the trigger.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the tight end position “is definitely a priority” for the team this offseason, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Quinn further emphasized it was a “position of need” and said they’re deep into scouting the tight end’s available in this year’s draft. Detroit got pretty much nothing out of their tight ends this year, so this isn’t a surprise. The team drafted Eric Ebron tenth overall back in 2014 but let him walk in free agency this past year, only to watch him have a career year with the Colts and make the Pro Bowl. Adding a real tight end would be a massive boost to the Lions’ offense.
  • Speaking of the Lions, they lost an assistant coach. Assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons is leaving to take a job at Vanderbilt, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News (Twitter link). Fitzsimmons had been with Detroit for the past five seasons. After the Lions fired Joe Marciano midway through last season, Fitzsimmons served as the team’s interim special teams coordinator for the final eight games.
  • The Lions aren’t the only team who made an assistant coaching change. The Patriots are hiring Youngstown State offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo to be their new assistant offensive line coach, according to Brian Dzenis of The Vindicate. Dzenis writes that Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini earlier this week, and Belichick has some connections to the area.